Secretary-General’s Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on older persons
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing untold fear and suffering for older people across the world. As of 26 April, the virus itself has already taken the lives of some 193,710 people, and fatality rates for those over 80 years of age is five times the global average. As the virus spreads rapidly to developing countries, likely overwhelming health and social protection systems, the mortality rate for older persons could climb even higher.
Less visible but no less worrisome are the broader effects: health care denied for conditions unrelated to COVID-19; neglect and abuse in institutions and care facilities; an increase in poverty and unemployment; the dramatic impact on well-being and mental health; and the trauma of stigma and discrimination.
Efforts to protect older persons should not overlook the many variations within this category, their incredible resilience and positivity, and the multiple roles they have in society, including as caregivers, volunteers and community leaders. We must see the full diversity of people within the older persons category. Women, for instance, are over-represented among both older persons and among the paid and unpaid care workers who look after them. We must also recognize the important contribution of older persons to the crisis response, including as health workers and caregivers. Each of us – States, businesses, international organizations, companies, communities, friends and family – need to step up our effort to support older persons. We must do everything possible to preserve their rights and dignity at all times.