In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many reports and studies have proven that the severity of the COVID-19 virus rises with age. For both physical and social reasons, elders are more likely to be stuck put in institutionalized settings for their personal safeties. However, debates and discussions on how various countries are handling their elderly citizens in the wake of the virus continue to flurry.
In China, where the pandemic started, people aged 70 and older accounted for just 12 percent of all infections but more than half of all deaths, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In Italy, the average age of those dying is 80, according to a study by the Italian National Institute of Health. In the United States, people aged 65 and older have thus far accounted for 31 percent of cases, 53 percent of intensive care hospitalizations and 80 percent of deaths. COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes and long-time care facilities for the elderly in the U.S. account for one-third of the country’s total COVID-19 fatalities, according to the data compiled by the New York Times.
The UK government’s herd immunity policy, which requires people over 70 years of age to stay in their homes or nursing homes for four months to isolate them from the broader population, has led to widespread criticism that “weaker” members of society, such as the older generation, must be sacrificed to help create immunity. In Israel, about 30,000 elderly people usually benefit from going to day centres and clubs run by the Labour and Social Welfare Ministry, but new guidelines in the country’s Health Ministry have forced many of these citizens to be isolated. Perhaps the most notorious case comes in Sweden, which has become infamous for their rather lax approach in handling the crisis, where over 90 percent of their elderly citizens have died due to the virus, particularly those who are in nursing homes.
Compared to these cases, countries like China and Japan are handling things with much fewer complaints and criticisms towards their elderly. The measures they have taken include helping elderly people apply for temporary subsidies and other types of social relief, organizing their caretakers to adequately service them and supporting elderly care institutions in prioritizing the applications of elderly people in need.
While this is just a very small snippet to a bigger macrocosm, this epidemic nevertheless reflects upon how most governmental bodies and healthcare systems perform crisis management. In an era of increasing number of aging people relative to a country’s general population there are notable problems in nursing facilities, community services, social welfare for the elderly. Dr. Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton in England, stressed about the lack of focus on the elderly in care homes. “Our elderly populations deserve better than to be ignored and forgotten.”
Although the pandemic may be stalking the world for a long time to come, more and more countries have launched recovery efforts, but concerns remain regarding the initiatives for the elderly. In this growing crisis, we still have time and plenty of opportunities, provided if we are able to adapt and learn and are identify these shortcomings and take devised steps to resolve them.