Ageism and risk during the coronavirus pandemic

Peta Cook, Cassie Curryer, Susan Banks, Barbara Neves, Maho Omori, Annetta Mallon, Jack Lam

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare societal discourses regarding age differences and stereotypes. Using sociological approaches to risk and drawing on some examples from the Australian online news media, we illustrate how risk management approaches and risk uncertainties in response to the coronavirus, have homogenised younger and older peoples, and widely positioned them in a binary generational conflict of ‘risky’ and ‘at risk’. Younger people are frequently framed as healthy, active agents: they are engaging in risky behaviours that endanger their health and that of others. In contrast, older people have been typically cast as passive and at risk: ‘the elderly’ and ‘the vulnerable elderly’. In extreme cases, older people have also been framed as burdensome and worthless. In this chapter, we examine how age was framed or ‘staged’ during COVID-19 to illustrate how ageist language and dichotomous pandemic framings – grounded on blame and shame – add to social divisions and ‘othering’, shape risk management strategies, and cloud public health messaging on risk, viral spread, and physical distancing measures.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe COVID-19 Crisis: Social Perspectives
EditorsDeborah Lupton, Karen Willis
Place of PublicationAbingdon Oxon UK
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781003111344
ISBN (Print)9780367628956, 9780367628987
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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