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Commentaries on Gerontological Social Work’s Response to COVID-19

The Consequences of Ageist Language are upon us

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Pages 508-512 | Published online: 27 May 2020


The COVID‒19 pandemic has highlighted the ease in which ageist language is employed and ageist stereotypes are used to characterize older adults. These are harmful and display an impressive lack of future thinking – as younger and middle-aged adults who use this language and forward these concepts also hope to live long lives. The disproportionately negative outcomes for older adults in this pandemic in part, reflect social and economic inequalities that are manifest throughout the life course of marginalized groups including persons of color. They also reflect major problems with institutional living be it in prisons or nursing homes. Social workers and allied professionals can work to address these manifestations of ageism in part by employing inclusive language – as advised by the Reframing Aging Project, working to build and support strong intergenerational relationships, working to eradicate social and economic disparities at all life stages, and advocating for a more critical look at institutionalization of older adults.

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