We object to any policy which differentiates the population by application of an arbitrary chronological age in restricting people’s rights and freedoms.
A statement has been released by the President and Members of the National Executive Committee of the British Society of Gerontology that rejects the government policy on COVID-19 based solely on age.
Representing gerontologists in the UK, the British Society of Gerontology (BSG) released a statement on 20th March 2020 in response to the government policy surrounding age divisions in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the statement, the BSG Committee rejects policy based on age and urges the media to be cautious with language, stressing the importance of ‘bringing generations together’ to prevent further damage to communities by increasing the segregation of ages.
The Committee makes it clear that they understand the government’s goal to ‘control and limit’ coronavirus and shows support for actions to limit ‘physical interactions, maintain hygiene standards and restrict non-essential travel’ and that to control and delay coronavirus will cause disruption throughout.
They stress that urgent testing needs to be put in place for health and social care workers on the front line in response to the pandemic for COVID-19, as well as for the wider population, to ensure that the right people self-isolate – and to ensure that those risking their lives are protected. To better prepare for future pandemics and to assist us now, the Committee suggests that sufficient access to data is needed for research and modelling.
The statement then goes on to reject the government’s policy based on age, arguing although people of all ages can be vulnerable to COVID-19 and all can spread the disease, not all people over 70 are vulnerable. They highlight the vital role that over 70s play in the workforce, voluntary activity and as carers for ‘parents, partners, adult children and grandchildren’. The Committee argues that quarantining the more than 8.5 million over 70s will cause a detrimental effect on ‘families, communities and businesses, and causes harm to those individuals’.
The statement goes on to outline 10 reasons why they urge the government to reject its COVID-19 policies based on age:
- Over 70 does not mean these individuals are ‘vulnerable, a burden or presenting risks to other people’.
- Health risks identified for coronavirus to affect those of all ages and is not based solely on age.
- It should be clear that avoiding catching and spreading this disease applies to everyone and is not age-related.
- We are all personally at risk yet policy ‘risks pitting young against old’.
- People of all ages must distance physically from others irrespective of age.
- Loneliness and social isolation do not only occur for those who are older or living alone.
- Clearer policies and considerations are needed for those living alone.
- Family and friends caring for those affected by COVID-19 ‘need to be acknowledged and treated’ as ‘front line of society’s response’.
- Consideration for connecting separated loved ones be it by care or household needs to be addressed to protect the wellbeing and health of individuals.
- Self-isolation experiences will vary and wellbeing, access to food, ability to have social contact are all elements that should be considered.
- Social aspects of ageing must be considered such as ‘age, gender, ethnicity/race, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status, marital status, household composition…’.
- Considerations for death and death rates and the right to be able to grieve and come to terms with loss.
Click to read more on the full list of 10 reasons why the BSG rejects the government policies and why these should be readdressed.