Respecting Older Adults: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Respecting Older Adults: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Original Research

Open Access. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, Volume 19, Issue 2.

Cristina Voinea, Tenzin Wangmo & Constantin Vică

Abstract The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many social problems and put the already vulnerable, such as racial minorities, low-income communities, and older individuals, at an even greater risk than before. In this paper we focus on older adults’ well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic and show that the risk-mitigation measures presumed to protect them, alongside the generalization of an ageist public discourse, exacerbated the pre-existing marginalization of older adults, disproportionately affecting their well-being. This paper shows that states have duties to adopt and put into practice redress measures to compensate for the negative consequences of COVID-19 public health policies on older adults’ overall well-being. These duties flow from the minimal ethical requirement of respect for persons. We show that respect is a morally basic attitude that presupposes taking the others’ interests into account, with the aim of advancing their well-being. This duty is not limited to kinship, relatives, and friends but it extends to states and the rest of the civil society. In the conclusion, we draw lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and sketch some redress measures that could compensate for the decrease in older adults’ well-being as a result of the adoption of measures to contain the spread of the virus.

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