By George Cappannelli
In this time of pandemic, confusion and fear when our scientific and medical professionals report that older Americans, in addition to those among us who are physically compromised due to heart and lung issues, diabetes or who may be undergoing cancer treatment are most at risk from COVID19, it is not unexpected, but it is unacceptable that the prejudice of Ageism has again reared its ugly head.
Indeed, at this moment and in what is touted as being the wealthiest nation on earth, vulnerable older Americans are being treated as expendable and, in many instances left to die under conditions that are physically very painful and, in many instances, unnecessary.
Yes, Ageism, the only remaining, acceptable prejudice, could be heard in the abusive words of an unconscious Texas Congressman this week. We see Ageism at play in the failure of the Governor of Florida, a state with a huge population of aging people, to issue a stay-at-home order in a timely way to prevent the unnecessary spread of this deadly virus. We also experience it in the callous comments by the President of the United States, who due to his own incompetence and that of his Administration is clearly incapable of meeting the needs of this nation during this crisis and, as a result, continues to place the entire country and most especially our vulnerable aging elders in jeopardy.
And as if this wasn’t already enough, this Manipulator and Deceiver-In-Chief, who still refuses to issue a national stay in place order, appears to now be cavalierly accepting a possible death toll of 240,000 or more as if it was an inconsequential and unavoidable number. Whereas, in truth, it was avoidable had this individual who has consistently demonstrated his inability to feeling genuine compassion and empathy for others acted with speed and genuine understanding of the consequences. But that is what is happening and when one reflects on his failures in so many areas including the level of disregard that he and his administration have shown toward aging Americans during his entire Administration, this should not surprise any of us.
But what about Congress? Let’s take the new 2 Trillion Dollar Rescue legislation as an example. How much of that 2 Trillion has been allocated in support of the most vulnerable and at risk segment of our population. Billions for the Airline and Hospitality industries. Billions more for Boeing whose current plight has nothing to do with COVID 19, but instead is the result of its own poor management practices and design incompetence. And yet it looks like they are going to get a huge bailout. There’s even talk of the oil industry, the most profitable industry in the world, getting a large share of our, hard-earned tax dollars.
Meanwhile hospitals – the front line of defense in this war against the virus, and all of the doctors, nurses, interns and EMT who are putting their lives on the line have had to beg and plead for minimal support in regard to vital ventilators and PPEs. And this critical industry as a whole has only been allotted a paltry 150 Billion.
Perhaps you notice the same thing we do, that nowhere in this massive funding is there any genuine focus and special emergency funding for nursing homes, assisted living communities and for senior living communities. There is no special allocation for emergency medical supplies, ventilators, Personal Protective Equipment for the badly underpaid work force in this sector, the sector which serves the most at risk of the at risk population. And where is the special financial funding to create temporary structures to allow greater separation for these vulnerable elders or funds for them to hire more support staff, increase medical staff, buy new equipment, provide patient transportation, etc.?
We don’t see any of these things either. While Mayors and Governors call out for support for their hospitals and the Core of Engineers and National Guard contingents are finally now being used to erect temporary hospitals, and unused Medical Ships sit in the harbors of New York and Los Angeles, who is speaking out for and creating alternatives for our aging citizens who are tightly packed in nursing homes and held-captive in assisted living communities?
Yes, this is AGEISM on display in all of its prejudicial glory. Apparently it’s not bad enough that a majority of older Americans in a number of rural counties and less populated states all across the US live below the poverty line? Many of them, in fact, barely subsist on $14,000 a year or less. Nor is it bad enough that many local hospitals, clinics and medical facilities have been forced to close their door over the last few years and that under this Administration funding for essential support programs like Meals on Wheels and other feeding and transportation programs many older Americans rely on have been also slashed to the bone and in many cases eliminated entirely. And what has happened to Medicaid, the social safety net for older Americans not covered by Medicare and other impoverished citizens. Medicaid has been badly underfunded by this Administration and, as a result, in some red states it is not even supported by Right Wing Governors who somehow continue to hold the Neanderthal view that the old and the poor are not worthy of our support. And then there is the fact that every budget proposed by this Administration calls for major cuts to Social Security benefits, benefits that already fail to provide even the basic cost of living increases to its recipients.
Yes, we have, indeed, come to a very sorry place in our history where we disregard and consider expendable those among us who have arrived at their most vulnerable stage in their lives. These are the very same people who have paid their taxes for longer than some of these self-righteous and callus politicians on the Right have been alive. They have also contributed to Social Security for decades, fought in wars in defense of this country, contributed their talents and sweat to the growth and well-being of this nation and have also given birth to many of us. And now in this time that has been called ‘The Great Forgetting,’ they are being sacrificed by an indifferent government and by large swaths of the populace that has become numb and mute under the erratic and oppressive onslaught of a Lunatic-In-Chief.
Ungrateful. Unacceptable! Unconscionable!
Can we help America wake up in time to protect and support our aging citizens? We must! We must remind those who have lost their sense of humanity and compassion that the 50 and older population will soon number between 100 million and 150 million and will eventually include even they who mistakenly belief they are immune to aging and death. Yes, we need to give voice to those among us who are most at risk and who therefore are most in need our attention, our compassion and our active support.
We must make it clear to even the most indifferent among our leaders that if this catastrophe is allowed to continue, it will add another layer of shame to the already heavy burden we carry that prevents us from standing on the moral high ground articulated by our founders in the enlightened documents that gave birth to our nation.
So take a few moments today and in the days ahead. Hold a vision of healing for those most vulnerable among us. Hold a vision of protection for those who are struggling to support them. And hold a vision that those among us who would disregard and deny our aging citizens develop some true compassion, understanding and love. And it also wouldn’t hurt to put in a call to and ask your friends to call the Denier-In-Chief in the White House, (Comments: 202-456-1111 – Switchboard: 202-456-1414) and his equally numb and unconscious minion in the Senate, Mitch McConnell (202) 224-2541). Tell them older Americans need to be honored and protected. They them that they are not expendable, that they are us!