The other day I had the opportunity and honor to facilitate an online learning lab focused on bias. Teaching others about the impacts of bias and especially racism, is part of my daily life and work. Thinking about inequities that continue to plague society is always at the forefront. But this piece is not about that work.
What I wanted to share with others is a heartbreaking comment stated during the close of the presentation. It went something like this — “I was hoping that you would talk more about age discrimination that is happening because of this pandemic. Many older people are feeling as if they no longer matter. It feels as if because we’re toward the latter part of our lives, that we are no longer considered a priority.”
Moment of silence.
I thought of the most respectful response I could utter to her in those last couple of minutes that remained.
“You matter to me and to the rest of society. Please know that my family and our communities are being especially cautious because we value your life and the lives of elders throughout our state and nation. I am so sorry to hear that you feel this way and I invite you to continue to join us in these important conversations.”
The comment had caught me off guard because the topic was focused on implicit bias. I realized then and especially now that the woman courageously offered this thought because of how she was feeling and of its relevance. Age discrimination has always been and is a hard-hitting reality for many, especially for older women in the workplace.
Since then, I’ve been reflecting even more on how ‘older’ individuals, especially our elders, might be feeling during these challenging times when we are witnessing a microscopic enemy impacting (especially) them in alarming ways.
If I am feeling frightened and a continuous low-grade anxiety that won’t cease, I can only imagine what older individuals might be feeling. Maybe worse? Or, maybe they are at a point of peace and balance that is unphased by this contagion of increased fear?
Because my advocacy work focuses on the preservation and protection of traditions and traditional knowledge connected to land and water, elders have always been…