Report on the Interdisciplinary Webinar: COVID-19 – Reframing Ageing

The organisers of Framing Ageing: Anne Fuchs (PI), Desmond O’Neill, Mary Cosgrove, Julia Langbein have compiled a comprehensive report on the recent interdisciplinary webinar –  COVID-19 – Reframing Ageing – which took place on June 12 2020.

As the report outlines, the webinar (which is available to view on UCD Humanities Institute’s Youtube channel), attempted to rise above sector debates by asking:

• What are the blind spots and biases that COVID-19 has revealed in public discourse, political rhetoric and narratives of experience?

• Is the widespread policy of ‘protecting’ a particular group by means of chronological age a necessary defence against a virus whose impacts are highly age-sensitive, or is it a radical and disturbing reframing of older people in society?

• Is the language used to identify particular cohorts of the population appropriate? Is it consistent with the kind of normative discrimination that typically frames (and writes off) people in this age-group as ‘elderly’?

• What kind of exchange and consultation with the particular cohorts has taken place?

• What learnings can governments, policy makers and wider society take from this situation?

• Reform of the nursing home sector is a hot political topic currently: will this last beyond COVID-19, and if yes, what form will reconceptualization take in future?

Four panels were set up to discuss the blind spots and biases of public discourse about older people from interdisciplinary perspectives, straddling gerontology, sociology, gender studies, history, art practice, and literary studies. In so doing, the webinar participants attempted to reframe negative perceptions and representations, particularly in the media, of ageing as an overwhelmingly disabling process that erodes people’s autonomy, agency, and dignity.

The public need for this debate was underlined by the high registration number: over 300 people enrolled from Ireland, the UK, continental Europe, the USA and South America, and over 190 people attended the seminar on the day, filtering their comments and interventions through the chat function on Zoom.

Download and read the full report here.