Defining The New Normal Under COVID-19

During the last two weeks, I have learned so much as a Delegate for the UN’s High-Level Political Forum. I really learned from the subject matter expert speakers of the side event “Sustainable Cities & COVID-19: Plans for Action,” hosted by UN2020 and several additional cosponsors, including the UNA-USA Council of Organizations. 

I was particularly interested in this side event because it focused on how the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in urban areas around the globe will greatly contribute to our collective global recovery of COVID-19. This discussion featured speakers from around the world, including Germany, Kenya, Nigeria, and New York. One of the speakers, Ms. Katherine Kline, a Co-Chair for the Committee on Older Persons for General Assembly of Partners, spoke about ways COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted older and disabled persons around the world, particularly in developing nations. One comment she made really resonated with me; that governments generally see older and disabled persons from a medicine model, meaning these communities present more of a financial burden to governments. She also discussed how governments do not consider the contributions of older and disabled persons, especially older persons who often serve as caregivers in their families as grandparents. She also discussed the important fact that older and disabled persons are rights holders just as all other global citizens. 

As a person living with a disability in the United States, I found Ms. Kline’s talk to be very relatable and I am inspired to continue to encourage more dialogue and action around COVID-19 and the intersections of being older and/or disabled in my local community. Older and disabled persons often experienced isolation and microaggressions before COVID-19, so one can only imagine what it feels like now as global anxiety has increased over the first pandemic in 100 years. It is important that we all remember the mandate of the SDGs: Leave No One Behind. 

Whether the world was ready or not, COVID-19 has pushed us all into a new normal. This new normal must change the way the world sees older and disabled persons. We are more than a financial burden to governments and healthcare systems. Our elders hold the key of wisdom to generations of their families, and those of us living with disabilities have powerful stories to inspire the world.