The Div. 20 Membership Committee (Soomi Lee, PhD; Gloria Luong, PhD; and Nicholas A. Turiano, PhD) reached out to William E. Haley, PhD, chair of APA’s Committee on Aging (CONA) for an update on how CONA is addressing ageism and aging with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic.
William E. Haley is a professor of aging studies at the University of South Florida. He has been an active member of APA’s Div. 20 since 1983, is a fellow in the division, and a 2009 winner of the division’s Master Mentorship Award. He was president of Div. 20 in 2013-2014. Haley and CONA have been very active in working with APA to assure that the APA response to COVID-19 includes an appropriate emphasis on aging issues.
Here, Haley shares information about the ways that COVID-19 has had an impact on older adults, focusing on ageism-related issues.
From William E. Haley, PhD
I’m sure that all Div. 20 members are well aware of the ways that COVID-19 has had an especially severe impact on older adults, ranging from terrible examples of ageism and the devaluation of lives of older adults, to shocking elevations in mortality for older adults, especially among nursing home residents. Our members have been quite active in developing materials specifically for APA, as well as for broader distribution, to address these topics.
We have particular concerns about discussions suggesting using age as a sole or major criterion for triage of patients and of the lack of attention to diversity in the “older adult” population, which can range from very healthy and active young-old individuals to very frail members of the oldest old group, who may be especially vulnerable in long-term care facilities. We hope that you will find our “Key points on COVID-19 and older adults” document useful. We also produced a statement, “Tips to help address ageism during the pandemic.”
CONA has also been involved in guiding APA as it develops stories for the general public, such as an article, “COVID-19 isn’t just a danger to older people’s physical health.” Kelly Trevino and Karen Fingerman of CONA wrote an impressive op-ed for University of Texas News titled “Old age is not one thing in COVID-19.” CONA members Katherine Ramos and Karen Fingerman were cited in an article in Rolling Stone, “Why older people might suffer most, post-pandemic.” While many of us have been interviewed in the press or written pieces in public outlets, appearing in Rolling Stone might be a rock-star moment that few of us will achieve.
Besides our efforts specific to COVID-19, a major emphasis for CONA this year has been updating the 2002 APA Resolution on Ageism. Katherine Ramos of CONA has led this effort, and we are currently making revisions based on feedback from APA Boards and Committees to develop a final update of a new Resolution, which includes a strong evidence base and suggests that APA endorse some powerful statements condemning ageism in all forms and taking action to oppose it.
We thank Div. 20 for writing a wholehearted endorsement of this Resolution. One of the very heartening aspects of producing and distributing our draft document to different APA Boards and Committees has been that all these groups have been supportive of the need for such a Resolution on Ageism. Our major challenge is that each group wants even more information and references included and greater attention to issues such as the intersectionality of aging issues with other elements of diversity and mention of additional contexts, such as criminal justice. This is great progress and shows the success that psychologists who study aging have had in enlightening APA and its members about the importance of aging issues. A strong CONA and the very effective advocacy and support we receive from staff liaison Debbie DiGilio have really made a difference. Those of us who have been involved in APA issues for a long time can see the great progress we have made in being recognized within the organization. We believe that this Resolution on Ageism is a very timely and potentially highly impactful document.
CONA is active on many other fronts, and we will continue to update members of Div. 20 through posts to the Listserv.