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  • Erica Baird and Karen Wagner

4 Truths About Older People and the Pandemic

1.Older people are people, too.According to the World Health Organization, ageism affects at least 600 million people worldwide.Ageism, the last acceptable ‘ism,’ serves only to legitimize stereotypes of older people and leads to views, such as those articulated during the pandemic, that maybe the pandemic is not so bad if it only affects older people (which of course it does not). It is time to ditch those false assumptions. Older people are living longer and better than ever. Every lucky person will, in fact, one day be older. Long before that day, everyone needs to understand that older people are people, too.

2. Boomers have skills that help them handle the pandemic. Boomers have solved many problems in their time—especially women, who have to solve problems at home, at work and everywhere else. They also know that crises can bring about positive change—they lived through the dawn of modern feminism, the birth of the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War protests and the AIDS crisis. So while they hate the pandemic, they know how to deal with the daily dramas, and they know it will bring some useful changes when it is over.

3. Younger and older people have better lives if they live in the same communities. Older people are in the prime of their lives, and have experience and perspective to offer younger people. Younger people, in turn, have energy and exuberance that can benefit older people. Diversity of perspectives is always a good thing. Isolating older people, by housing them in retirement communities and excluding them from the workforce, is a waste for both generations. Never before have so many generations lived at the same time. Keeping them together profits everyone.  

4. Older people should participate in tech design. Thanks to the pandemic, right now is Zoom time, and everyone is connecting virtually. Older people know this is not the way anyone wants to live, but they also know how to make it work for the moment. In their careers, when technology flowered, they learned well its value and how to use it. Zoom is just an extension of what they already know. As Forbes reported, older people do sometimes get frustrated with technology—and who doesn’t—but older people are seldom asked for input on the design of anything. Maybe if someone over 16 who isn’t a gamer were asked for her opinion, everyone’s frustration would disappear.

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