May is the Older Americans Month. The history of this month dates back to 1963, when President John F Kennedy turned the focus on the concerns of senior citizens. Since then May has been a pivotal month for issuing special directives to take care of the nation's aged population.
President Trump's address for the occasion rightly begins with "the wisdom, spirit, and experience older adults bring to our families, our communities, and our Nation" and dwells at length on protecting America's seniors.
But against the Covid-19 pandemic, how has it really been for our country's most vulnerable?
It's here, the virus of ageism
Agencies involved with elder care, senior centers, community groups and individuals have pulled out all the stops to reach out to seniors, delivering senior requirements - from medicines and cooked meals to social interaction on phone and working out cheerful programs.
On quite the other side has been the insidious spread of the 'virus' of ageism. We are seeing cracks in our supposedly intergenerational society. Discrimination against the older generation is being experienced as never before, particularly in terms of medical aid. Social media is a favorite ground for propagating ageism, such as “I don’t know what people are worrying about. It’s just going to kill the old folks.”
In the 'new normal' is it that the 'old folks' don't matter that much? In the words of Dr Donald Macaskill, "It is almost as if because someone is older in years that their dying is of less impact or importance; that their loss to the community, to family and friends is somehow less painful and distressing to those left behind."
Fortunately ageist comments have also given rise to a huge amount of outrage and protest. But the cracks have emerged, and they hurt.
Gregory Kuhl, a 69-year-old Hollywood resident, who moves around in a wheelchair, gives a verbal punch: “If you don’t think older people have value, what you’re really saying is that you’re not going to have value,” he said. “Is that what you really want?”