social justice | March 26, 2020

Age Activist Ashton Applewhite Says Beating Coronavirus Means Confronting Ageism and Ableism

As new coronavirus cases surge and more and more people self-isolate to flatten the curve, the nation’s economy continues to plummet. On Twitter, the suggestion that older people should sacrifice themselves for the sake of the economy is only one indication of how ageism and ableism are being laid bare during this pandemic. Ashton Applewhite tackles the issue in her latest op-ed.  

“The pandemic has exposed our shredded social safety net as never before, and a hospital system crippled by decades of cost-cutting, underfunding, and chronic understaffing by underpaid workers to benefit profiteering corporations,” writes Ashton Applewhite. Under such circumstances, America will likely soon follow in the footsteps of countries like Italy and Spain, who are having to make heartbreaking decisions about who to treat in the midst of this public health emergency.


Applewhite contends that while these complex ethical decisions are necessary, allocating resources by age is a lethal form of discrimination. “The most dangerous manifestation of ageism during the pandemic is the suggestion of an age limit for medical treatment, so it won’t be ‘wasted,’ she writes. And though it is true that older people are at more risk, underlying conditions play a far bigger role than age when it comes to recovering from the illness. Unfortunately, age is much quicker to assess than a full medical historya disadvantage when life-or-death decisions must be made instantly.


“In every other context, it’s up to the rest of us to push back against every form of social bias,” writes Applewhite. “We are engaged in a massive collective experiment to protect the vulnerable, whoever they turn out to be. It’s high stakes, and it’s as intersectional as it can get. We are truly all in this together.”


Read her full article here.


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