British Society of Gerontology calls on Government to reject policy responses to COVID-19 based only on age

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British Society of Gerontology calls on Government to reject policy responses to COVID-19 based only on chronological age 

The British Society of Gerontology (BSG) urges the Government to reject the formulation and implementation of policy based on the simple application of chronological age. Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and evidence of growing age divisions in society, BSG also calls on government and media organisations to be cautious in their use of language. 

In a detailed statement on COVID-19, Professor Thomas Scharf, President of BSG, and members of the Society’s national executive committee argue that fostering generational and societal cohesion during the course of the pandemic is essential. 

Professor Scharf of Newcastle University said: “Only by bringing the generations together in this time of crisis can we prevent lasting damage being done to relationships between young and old in Britain. I am proud that BSG is taking a firm stand against the ageist and stereotypical assumptions that characterise policy measures that rely solely on the application of chronological age.” 

Professor Debora Price of the University of Manchester said: “We are witnessing terrible age divisions in Britain with growing hostility between the generations. We need to recognise that this is being caused and exacerbated by government policy and rhetoric, and that it is incredibly harmful to society for both young and old. The messaging needs to change as a matter of urgency.”

In its statement, BSG expresses its objection to any policy which differentiates the population by application of an arbitrary chronological age in restricting people’s rights and freedoms. While people at all ages can be vulnerable to COVID-19, and all can spread the disease, not all people over the age of 70 are vulnerable, nor all those under 70 resilient. Given older adults’ multiple social roles, quarantining the more than 8.5 million people over 70 years of age will deprive society of many people who are productive and active and who can be a key part of the solution by supporting the economy, families and communities. 

Acknowledging the importance of measures to control and limit the spread of COVID-19, as well as the need for rapid testing for front-line workers leading the response to the pandemic, BSG also expresses its support for testing of the wider population regardless of age. This allows people to respond appropriately to the pandemic, ensuring that the right people isolate themselves at the right time. 

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