By the time this COVID-19 pandemic is over I’ll be in a wheelchair, hooked up to an IV and shriveled as a prune left out in the sun.
I’m not doing anything to transform from being energetic, healthy and cute as the Pillsbury Doughboy, I’m just reading the newspapers and learning how vulnerable I am as part of the country’s frail, vulnerable and pitiful elderly population.
But enough already. Stop loading us on icebergs and pushing us out to sea.
Of course there are physical losses associated with aging. I get it that my lungs are “less elastic” than a teenager’s. I understand there’s a likelihood my immune system has weakened to an extent. But those possibilities do not put me at death’s door! I can’t run as fast as I did when I was twenty but walking ten thousand steps a day still is easy peasy.
Of course I’m taking preventive measures to avoid the virus. I accept the statistics that recommend extra precautions for us seniors. But am I being overly sensitive to the media’s focus regarding the nation’s elders, from being sages and mentors to being beggarly and dare I say it, disposable? Clearly the stereotype that pictures America’s older demographic as enfeebled and dependent is gaining credence with each passing day of the pandemic.
I accept it when my wife takes over the daily grocery run because her approach is, “let’s play it safe.” I wouldn’t be so sanguine with a “tut tut, you poor dear, get some rest and have a cup of tea.” And that’s my concern; that the nation’s attitude toward it’s seniors will be adversely affected by morons like Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who is of the opinion that old people, i.e. those most at risk, should volunteer to die to save the economy.
I’m protesting because stereotypes of aging in our contemporary culture, already are primarily negative, depicting later life as a time of ill health, loneliness, dependency and poor physical and mental functioning. This adverse thinking cannot help but reinforce ageism and to position old age as undesirable, when in fact, it can be the most rewarding and enriched period in one’s life!
In addition to a lowered self-esteem, implicit negative age stereotyping can affect the performance of older men and women. A study by the National Institute on Aging reported that exposure to negative age stereotypes led to lowered performance in tests of memory, handwriting skills and walking ability. Well, if that’s what they’re saying, then it must be true!
If behooves those of us who are energetic and healthy to highlight what is possible in later life, so as to motivate our compatriots to become more active and health conscious. We must make sure that increased negative stereotyping is not a side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.