Back In My Day: Older Asian adults are under attack

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Outrage does not properly encapsulate the feelings of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. From spitting to stabbing, a whole damning spectra of attacks has been propagated against older AAPI adults. The death of Vicha Ratanapakdee, the assault of Lee-Lee Chin-Yeung and the slashing of Noel Quintana are some of the attacks in recent months, which have been a part of the increase in AAPI-related attacks. 

These attacks upon AAPI members are an inexcusable reminder of the senseless violence that continues to drive this country into its own fallout — no questions asked. Many more are not covered by the news or media, but I encourage you to read into the reports released by Stop AAPI Hate.

Older adults of all races and creeds are attacked on a daily basis, albeit not always physically. They are perceived as vulnerable, making them more susceptible to financial scams, and as less likely to speak up if mistreated. 

While there is prominent legislation protecting the rights of older adults in terms of financial or physical abuse and neglect, it has been made clear in recent months that simply not enough has been done. President Joe Biden’s acknowledgement of xenophobia in the United States in his most recent executive order has minimally opened the conversation as well. Additionally, it has yet to be seen whether the creation of ‘special response units’ would deter the rates of race-related violence against Asian Americans.

It is community-led efforts that have been the only saving grace — from assisting older adults in attaining vaccination appointments to walking with older adults from place to place. 

So, let’s take a step back. 

“Have we genuinely lost our minds?” you, the inquisitive reader, asks. “It seems that the world continues to devolve into sheer madness by the day. But, to be fair, now we see that there’s plenty of advocacy going on on behalf of older adults.”

And that’s all great and dandy; I genuinely find some of the infographics that I stumble upon on Instagram to be occasionally helpful. But I hope that the conversation on these issues goes in the right direction. 

The right direction isn’t infantilizing older adults; again, they are fully functioning human beings that are going through the natural course of life. Additionally, while xenophobia and the model minority myth should be tackled through open discussion, I hope that the conversation also opens up and takes on the ageist rhetoric that we are often used to.

As an Asian American, I am already frustrated with the advocacy that has taken months to come to fruition. These racially charged attacks have occurred since the beginning of the pandemic and, frankly, long before it.

As a gerontologist, it truly pains me to see the treatment of older adults who are presently in the most vulnerable state when it pertains to the coronavirus pandemic, with the vaccine or without. I’ve written about the issues that older individuals have faced time and time again, and they continue to be under attack. But just as a human being, it tears my soul to see that this is what the world has come to.

Sadly, as with many of these controversial issues, it seems that a complete overhaul of the system is necessary to get everyone on the same page of compassion and respect. 

However, it is essential that with the time we have now we push for legislation and policies that further the protection of our older adult population. The justice system has certainly failed the AAPI population in more ways than one, but the proper repercussions must be brought down upon those who choose to vehemently oppose the law and disrespect their fellow community members. The fact that our own University has not voiced concern for its AAPI students, faculty and staff with such recent attacks is a clear demonstration of blissful ignorance. 

All of us know that these unprecedented attacks hurt the unity of minority communities in the United States, and pushes for reconciliation have certainly been futile as well. But we need to recognize that, older adults or not, individuals are being assaulted and scapegoated for events they’re not responsible for. 

Moving forward, we need to also demonstrate support for local, community-led initiatives that look out for the safety of vulnerable individuals at any capacity. Participating in phone chains and chatting with someone for a few minutes can truly make a difference in someone’s day when given serious consideration. Helping neighbors get groceries or advocating for vulnerable groups are also perfectly acceptable ways of working through this pandemic. 

And while the saying goes that “history repeats itself,” maybe one day we can reflect back as we live in a future where things turned for the better, thinking, “Back in my day…”

Lois Angelo is a sophomore writing about the intersections of gerontology and social issues. He is also co-chief copy editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Back In My Day,” runs every other Tuesday.