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  • Author or Editor: Maliha Majeed x
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Older adults have been thrown into the spotlight of the COVID-19 pandemic and the bright lights have exposed both societies’ admirable and deplorable traits. We have seen stories of heart-warming compassion and deep-rooted ageism. From the appalling #boomerremover hashtag to the calls for mandatory quarantines for those over 70 years of age, public responses to COVID-19 demonstrate the role of age and (dis)ability in amplifying social and spatial inequalities. Although these reactions are unfounded, unethical, and have not received widespread political support, they do highlight the distressing interrelation of several truths: society at large is aging; older adults are at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19; and the social and physical infrastructure of cities has not been built to support the needs of older adults. In addition to the risks of COVID-19, the confluence of these three realities has potentially exacerbated a second public health crisis: loneliness. And as in the case of COVID-19, older adults are particularly susceptible. In this chapter we examine the relationship between COVID-19, social distance, social isolation, and loneliness with a focus on the older adult experience in urban and suburban environments. In addition to outlining the risks faced by older adults in times of crisis, we explore opportunities to strengthen social bonds while physically distancing through the development of blended communities or virtual retirement villages. Using the experience of the Oakridge Seniors Association in suburban Calgary, we offer targeted recommendations for community leaders and policy makers on how to minimize risk and maximize social cohesion by embracing communication technology while remembering the importance of human interaction. (Chapters Eleven and Twelve also explore the theme of self-organization in the face of the pandemic, but from the perspective of different national contexts and social categories.)

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