Over 46 million older adults (65+) live in the United States today, with that number expected to double by 2050. According to the National Council on Aging, one in ten Americans aged 60+ has experienced some form of elder abuse. Not only this, but the 2020 State of Senior Hunger in America report found that a staggering 5.3 million seniors were food insecure in 2018. These statistics are shocking—yet it took a global pandemic to shine a spotlight on the needs of the older adult population.
While the issues facing seniors are not new, COVID-19 has greatly exacerbated the vulnerabilities older adults so often face—from elder abuse, to food insecurity, to mental health struggles and more. It has also greatly exacerbated the need for advocacy around these issues.
In recognizing this need, we have a unique opportunity to actively prioritize the well-being of seniors.
Fortunately, young people have begun to recognize the gravity of the situation at hand. Millennials are now grappling with how the struggles of older adults affect their grandparents, parents, and communities—and themselves in the decades to come.
The Importance of Social Media
Social media has revolutionized activism—today’s advocates are able to organize virtually, leaning on Instagram Lives with leaders of movements and Facebook Fundraisers with mission-based organizations.
Social media users, regardless of age, are capable of developing their voices via social media platforms and using them to effectively drive social change. Lawmakers and representatives have taken notice, joining these platforms to share their own policies as well as to connect with district constituents. The “knock on the door” has been replaced by a “send post” button on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Activists no longer have to jump through hurdles to get their messages across.
Rallying up Millennials
As more millennials find themselves engrossed in grassroots advocacy campaigns, JASA, the go-to agency serving older New Yorkers, has welcomed a new generation of advocates who are highlighting the great need to understand the issues facing seniors. In an effort to better champion older adults, JASA introduced JASANextGen—a social media project led by the next generation, targeting GenZers and Millennials, to educate and advocate on issues facing older adults.
Young people have an opportunity, through their platforms, to act as both advocates and role models for their peers—not only by teaching their followers how to better champion seniors, but also promoting the use of mindful language. For example, when discussing older adults, word choices such as “old people” and “cute” can come across as patronizing, diminishing the lived experiences of a senior.
Millennial advocates have a unique opportunity to spotlight the vulnerabilities that older adults face, and further encourage their communities to take action, simply by the click of a button.
In the months and years to come, we must be mindful of how we support older adults. The pandemic shed light on the many obstacles facing older adults and, though we are slowly returning to a new normal, millennials must continue to advocate for the older members of our communities.