Expert Pitch
Washington University in St. Louis

WashU Expert: Older Americans are not expendable

27-Mar-2020 1:25 PM EDT, by Washington University in St. Louis

Many countries reacted slowly and inadequately to the spread of COVID-19. Some critics have said this is due to initial reports of the disease, which indicated that it mainly affected older populations. Some, including the Texas lieutenant governor on Fox News, have even suggested that older Americans should be willing to sacrifice their health or lives for the good of the economy and the good of others.

“Older adults are not some kind of expendable commodity,” said Nancy Morrow-Howell, the Betty Bofinger Brown Distinguished Professor of Social Policy at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and an international leader in gerontology.

“I feel saddened when I hear it suggested that this disease ‘only’ impacts old people,” said Morrow-Howell, director of the university’s Friedman Center for Aging. “The older population is very heterogeneous and most people over the age of 65 are fit and functional engaged individuals who contribute greatly to their families and to society.”

While it is true that older adults have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, a number of younger patients have become ill or died as a result of COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young adults under the age of 44 comprise 20% of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States.

‘We need to remember that all of us are in this together — old and young alike. We need to come out of this with more intergenerational solidarity.’

“We are seeing that it is not age per se, but the fact that older age is associated with a number of risk factors that complicate the disease, including chronic health conditions, compromised immune systems and living in residential facilities,” Morrow-Howell said. “Chronological age is not an indicator in and of itself. It has more to do with overall health.”

She said it’s important to prevent “otherizing” older people during this epidemic and to avoid age stereotypes.

“I think it’s vital that we connect individual action, like social distancing and washing hands, to the common good,” Morrow-Howell said. “We also need to be descriptive about the risks, beyond old age. There are lots of people at increased ‘risk:’ children out of school who don’t have regular meals; restaurant workers without a paycheck; health care professionals on the front lines; people living alone who are experiencing isolation and anxiety; people with underlying health conditions. What can we do to ensure that all of us are as safe and well as we can be?”

Looking ahead to an eventual recovery from the virus, there are a number of issues that will need to be monitored in the older population, she said. We will have to deal with:

  • Set-backs to efforts to confront the image of old age as a state of frailty, vulnerability, primarily in need of compassion.
  • Impacts of economic shutdown on employment and reemployment of older workers who face age discrimination in the work setting.
  • Effects of stock market decline to retirement savings.
  • Erosion of usual care and community services in time of crisis.
  • Longer-term effects of social isolation.
  • Lasting health problems/morbidity following COVID-19 illness.

“We need to remember that all of us are in this together — old and young alike,” Morrow-Howell said. “We need to come out of this with more intergenerational solidarity.”

WashU Response to COVID-19
Visit coronavirus.wustl.edu for the latest information about WashU updates and policies. See all stories related to COVID-19.




Filters close

Showing results

110 of 2011
Released: 29-May-2020 11:55 PM EDT
Heart surgery stalled as COVID-19 spread
University of Ottawa

As the novel coronavirus spread across the globe in early 2020, hospitals worldwide scaled back medical procedures, including life-saving heart surgery, to deal with the emerging threat of COVID-19.

Released: 29-May-2020 11:30 PM EDT
UCLA AASC & FSPH launch COVID-19 Multilingual Resource Hub to support safety for diverse communities
UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

UCLA Asian American Studies Center and the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health COVID-19 Multilingual Resource Hub to support safety for diverse communities; partnership develops resources for COVID-19 response

Newswise: UTEP Study Examines COVID-19 Stress, Coping Strategies, and Well-Being
Released: 29-May-2020 6:15 PM EDT
UTEP Study Examines COVID-19 Stress, Coping Strategies, and Well-Being
University of Texas at El Paso

Emre Umucu, Ph.D., assistant professor of rehabilitation counseling at The University of Texas at El Paso, and Beatrice Lee, an incoming rehabilitation counseling faculty member, examined the perceived stress levels and coping mechanisms related to COVID-19, and how coping affects well-being in people with self-reported chronic conditions and disabilities.

Newswise: 233197_web.jpg
Released: 29-May-2020 4:55 PM EDT
CT findings of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in children 'often negative'
American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS)

An investigation published open-access in the American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR) revealed a high frequency of negative chest CT findings among pediatric patients with laboratory-confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19), while also suggesting that bilateral, lower lobe-predominant ground-glass opacities (GGOs) are common in the subset of patients with positive CT findings.

Newswise: 233198_web.jpg
Released: 29-May-2020 4:40 PM EDT
Modelling predicts COVID-19 resurgence if physical distancing relaxed
University of Guelph

If physical distancing measures in Ontario are relaxed too much or too quickly, the province could see hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients as well as exponential growth in deaths, concludes new research involving a University of Guelph infectious disease modeller.

Released: 29-May-2020 3:35 PM EDT
Using Wastewater to Track, Contain SARS-CoV-2
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Researchers took a novel approach to tracking the virus that causes COVID-19 that promises to be cost effective and ensure privacy by using a method that surveils for the virus in a local's untreated wastewater facilities.

Newswise: fimmu-11-01208-g001.jpg
Released: 29-May-2020 2:40 PM EDT
Genetics May Explain High COVID-19 Mortality in Italy, Inform Global Pandemic Response
Sbarro Health Research Organization (SHRO)

Researchers predict the Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) gene has a key role in shaping immune response to COVID.

Released: 29-May-2020 1:40 PM EDT
Study finds surge in hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine prescriptions during COVID-19
Brigham and Women’s Hospital

A new study by investigators from Brigham and Women's Hospital examines changes in prescription patterns in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Showing results

110 of 2011

close
0.79284