One of the hardest things about the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t social distancing or staying at home, it’s realizing that your relatives are getting older. Some of us still think the 1990s were 10 years ago. And when it was announced that seniors are the most at-risk for COVID-19, if you’re a Millennial, Xennial or even a Gen X-er, you may have thought, “OK. That’s my grandparents.” But it’s not. It’s your Boomer parents, too.
Your parents probably don’t think they’re seniors either. But if they’re older than 65, they are a senior citizen. They have a higher risk with COVID-19 not because of their age, but because of what that means: weakened immune systems. Seniors are also more likely to have heart disease, lung disease or diabetes – all of which are additional high-risk categories for COVID-19. And despite this, many Boomers seem to be sticking to their normal schedules. Going out to restaurants. Meeting in larger groups and clubs. And their kids can’t convince them to stay put.
in an unsettling reversal of my teenage years, I am now yelling at my parents for going out
— Brigid Delaney (@BrigidWD) March 16, 2020
So why are Boomers being so cavalier? Maybe it’s because they’re only thinking about the death rate which is highest in those older than 80. But the coronavirus can have lasting negative effects on your lungs and longevity even if you survive. Medical experts are only now realizing how much lung damage severe cases on coronavirus cause, claiming it can reduce lung functionality by 30%. Some predictions say it could take 15 years to heal. Others say the damage is permanent.
If you too have Boomer parents who have been highly unwilling to take COVID-19 seriously, apparently the AARP website is what flipped my parents from wildly incautious to doomsday prepping.
— Roopika Risam (@roopikarisam) March 15, 2020
And younger generations aren’t off the hook either. Millennials in many parts of the country are still going to bars and parties. The flippant attitude seems even worse than Boomers. The biggest problem here is that seemingly healthy people might already be carrying COVID-19, as it can take 14 days for symptoms to present. When Idris Elba announced that he tested positive for the virus, he noted that he still had no symptoms, and many people with mild cases of the virus present with no symptoms at all. So, with younger folks club-hopping, there’s no way to know how many cases are actually in the U.S. And those “healthy” people brushing up with at-risk older people (or younger people with compromised immune systems) in supermarkets or pharmacies is irresponsible and selfish. It’s begun to seem like the only generation taking this seriously is Gen X.
The reason GenX is taking this most seriously is because we are the current caretakers. So we are worried sick about our germy kids AND our at-risk parents and all that stands in between the spread from one to the other … is us. #coronavirus #paninigeneration
— S. Mitra Kalita (@mitrakalita) March 15, 2020
The latch-key generation is probably the most prepared for a 15-day (likely more) U.S. lockdown because they were raised with more autonomy and isolation. Gen X kids got off the school bus, made their own afternoon snack, did homework by themselves and helped their siblings all before their parents got home.
Boomers are going out; Millennials are going out. The only people staying in taking this seriously is the one generation that always gets forgotten about. Gen X will no longer be invisible because they will be the only ones left.
— Josh Stermberb (@joshsternberg) March 14, 2020
Social media seems to be flooded with each generation taking a side and throwing shade, but maybe it’s time to cool it on the generational jokes. And then others will see how serious this is. Because it’s very serious. We all have to do our part to practice social distancing so we can flatten the curve in the U.S. Because even though this virus affects generations differently, the lasting impact on the economy affects us all.
Deanne Revel is a travel journalist and host in Seattle, WA. She is passionate about LGBTQ rights, mental health and a proud supporter of The Trevor Project. When not on assignment, you can find her exploring National Parks or theme parks with her wife. Follow her adventures on Instagram @revelandroam.