Ageism, age divisions and ageing in a time of crisis: reflections on the social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
The increased mortality risk faced by people in older age groups due to COVID-19 became one of the key pieces of information that frames our knowledge about the virus. Chronological age is a significant factor that influences both the experience of risk and the impact of the pandemic in daily life. This articles discusses how chronological age and the category of ‘older people’ were addressed in social and health policies and the discourses surrounding the outbreak of COVID-19. It examines how these processes can affect the position of older people in society and the relationships between different generations. The article focuses on four main arguments. First, it points out that chronological age was established as a significant vector defining the human position in society during the pandemic. Second, it argues that the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to accelerate age-divisions in our societies and may contribute to the growth of ageist representations. Third, the way age was mobilised and depicted in debates surrounding the pandemic situation has also had an impact on intergenerational solidarity and may reinforce antagonism between generations. Fourth, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed some key structural problems in the field of elderly care and paternalistic attitudes that persist in relation to older people. The second part of the article discusses possible challenges relating to ageism, the well-being of older people, and elderly care that need to be addressed by (social) gerontology and the social sciences and that have been further exacerbated (not only) in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sociologický časopis, redakce, Sociologický ústav AV ČR, v.v.i., Jilská 1, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic
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