During more than a year of tracking the parameters of Covid-19, medical science has made one thing clear: the virus hits the elderly hardest. Yet their vulnerability is often taken as fate. A new international study disagrees. Prejudice, institutional bias and societal discrimination against older people in both rich and poor countries, it says, set the stage long before the virus struck. There was nothing inevitable about the pandemic’s effects.
Tapping into scores of research from dozens of countries for the study, “Global Report on Ageism,” experts argue that it is a persistent threat that is not getting enough global attention. Published on March 18, their report is a combined effort of four crucial United Nations entities: the World Health Organization, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Population Fund.
The UN does not have a dedicated agency on aging, although the world’s population is steadily getting older in many places. HelpAge International, a civil society organization with 158 members in 86 countries, fills some gaps with hotlines and help centers as well as a range of other services, including legal advice and assistance.