Today, the way we talk about politics is heated, to say the least. Many political discussions devolve into name-calling and cherry-picked numbers from both sides of the aisle. And almost all of those heated discussions take place online. A topic that is frequently brought up in our political discourse today is marginalized groups — and for good reason.
Often removed from that discussion, though, are elderly people. It’s a shame because they are a marginalized group, but because our society undervalues the voice that they have, and their concerns are often left out. There’s no easy or straightforward way to address the problems elderly people face, and in our death-adverse society, even the idea of aging can be uncomfortable for people to discuss.
One example of how elderly people have no place in our discussions is in healthcare. Republicans talk of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act while claiming they won’t touch Medicaid, Social Security or remove treatments for pre-existing conditions. In practice, this has not played out quite that way. It’s true they haven’t gutted them yet, but Paul Ryan has said those programs are how they plan to pay the debt accrued by the new budget.
Those programs are some of the one’s seniors rely heavily on to address their needs as they age. The AARP sent a letter to Trump directly, requesting the budget he passed not go through — specifically because they knew it would drastically cut programs already funded at historically low levels.
Despite this, the impact the budget would have on seniors was nothing but a blip on the radar for news stations. It’s the only way for them to stay in business. While the news may not do US citizens any favors in their delivery of the news, it’s the viewers who choose the programming, which says a lot about our consideration for the elderly population.
Senior citizens are one of the groups most at risk for being assaulted, physically, mentally and sexually. In many instances, part of this vulnerability comes from the way we view elderly people. We have a capitalistic, utilitarian system that has worked its way into our culture. As people age and are less able to provide something for that system, we begin to value them less. The result is that our mothers and fathers become part of our “throwaway” culture.
And what do we do with things we don’t want but can’t actually toss? We give them away. In the case of people, we give them away to nursing homes. Unfortunately, nursing homes are an area where elderly people are at risk of abuse, fraud and neglect, but this is another issue that you won’t see frequently reported in the news. The elderly often have no platform to speak for themselves. Elder abuse is rising — about 1 in 6 suffer some abuse.
Despite these incredibly high numbers, elder abuse is one of the least well-known problems and one of the least addressed. There is practically no mention of it in politics, despite the considerable impact political decisions have on the lives and well-being of elders.
Just knowing that elder abuse exists, happens frequently and that seniors need a platform is a good starting point. One day a year in June, we recognize something called Elder Abuse Day. It’s a time to think about spreading awareness, and checking in with your own elders.
When one group has a microphone, others get left behind. On occasion, use your chance to speak up for those who can’t.
Author: Kate Harveston