Clinical Geriatrics - Reviews
Submitted: 2021-07-04
Published: 2021-10-31

Age discrimination in delivery of health services to old people during COVID-19 pandemic: a scoping review study

Health Education and Health Promotion. Child Growth and Development Research Center, Research Institute for Primordial Prevention of Non-Communicable Disease, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran:
Department of Health Education and Promotion, School of Health, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran
Department of Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifary, Lorestan University of Medical Sciences, Khorramabad, Iran
COVID-19 age discrimination old people healthcare delivery of healthcare


Background & objectives. Age discrimination causes many consequences and complications in old people as a high-risk group. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, delivery of care and treatment services to old people has become a major challenge. The present study aimed to synthesize and summarize the conditions of discrimination in the delivery of health services to old people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Research design & methods. A scoping review was performed using Arkesy and O’Malley’s framework. PUBMED, Scopus, Web of Science, Embase, ProQuest, Science direct, SPRINGER, and Wiley databases were searched using the related keywords. Out of 246 retrieved studies, 21 published studies related to ageism toward old people in the delivery of healthcare services to old people during the COVID-19 pandemic were examined.
Results. Most of the published reports were from European countries and the United States. Although they indicated a growing trend of anti- aging attitudes, there were some positive behaviors toward them. Promotion of anti-aging culture, discriminatory guidelines and decisions and feeling of insignificance by the old people themselves may be associated with the condition of discrimination against them.
Discussion & implications. The articles were related to limited countries. Owing to discriminatory behaviors in the delivery of health services to old people, it is necessary for health policy-makers to develop protocols on the delivery of healthcare services to this group transparently to minimize harm, enhance positive behaviors toward this group, and train healthcare providers and old people.


The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed a substantial burden of mortality and morbidity on the healthcare system of countries 1. In July 2021, the WHO reported 196,553.009 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 4,200.412 deaths 2. Among various age groups, old people with COVID-19 have shown more severe symptoms 3-5. In addition, since aging is associated with chronic diseases, the risk of death in these people is affected by COVID-19 6. An upward trend of the probability of death in the old people with COVID-19 aging has been shown; the rate of mortality in the sixties, seventies and eighties has been demonstrated to be 3.6, 8.8 and 14.8%, respectively 3. Statistics suggested that more than 90% of deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic occurred in people over 60 years old and more than 50% of them occurred in people over 80 years old 7. The nursing home residents also account for more than half of all COVID-19-related deaths worldwide 1. The high rates of morbidity in this age group may be rooted in caring behaviors 8.

The high rates of morbidity in this age group may be rooted in caring behaviors, so that an association between care-elder-friendly approaches and fewer falls, less functional decline, shorter length of hospital stay, in comparison to traditional care 9, has been established. In addition, elder mistreatment was associated with an increased mortality rate in old adults 10.

One characteristic of public health crises is the shortage of medical facilities. Difficult decisions must be made about who should use the limited facilities, and how and where they should be used 11. Appropriate support measures have been taken for the old people over 70 years old during the COVID-19 pandemic 12. However, how intensive care unit facilities are allocated to older patients shows the deprivation of many of them. Therefore, due to the shortage of ventilators, only some patients can receive them in critical situations 13. In this regard, some guidelines have been proposed on how these resources are used by medical associations 14, which may lead to the prevalence of behaviors related to age discrimination 15. Age discrimination is common in the community and daily lives of old people. Such discriminations have always threatened the lives of the old people. The absence of the old people in the cycle of wealth production and heir weak physical conditions have endangered the delivery of health services to them 16.

In one study, 35% of people over 52 years of age in the United Kingdom and 29% in the United States reported several experiences of discriminatory behaviors. In another study, only 11% did not experience any discriminatory behaviors 17. This issue leads to inequality in receiving health services 18. Age discrimination was also seen among healthcare staff in the delivery of health services before the COVID-19 pandemic 19-21. Age discrimination has many effects on old people’s physical, mental and social well-being, resulting in reduced life expectancy, social isolation, and reduced adherence to preventive health behaviors 20,22. As mentioned above, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed a significant burden on healthcare systems, leading to a severe shortage of resources needed to solve patients’ problems, thereby prioritizing people to receive medical services, particularly acute care, intensive care unit, and ventilator services 23,24.

The current beliefs about old people have caused young people to be prioritized in receiving medical facilities, such as mechanical ventilator 3; however, guidelines recommend that decisions on the use of medical equipment should be made based on the patient’s physical conditions, not their age 25. Several reports due to the increased risk of COVID-19 disease among older people have made them to stay at home 26. Moreover, the unpleasant and shocking news of caring for old people during the COVID-19 pandemic has been reported from March 2020 to May 2020 26. Age discrimination against old people can be observed at both individual and structural levels 18. The stereotype embodiment theory (SET) represents three different but interrelated types of age discrimination: practical age discrimination reflecting harmful behaviors against old people, age-related negative stereotypes reflecting individuals’ beliefs about old people, and self-perception in the second adulthood reflecting old people’s opinions about their aging. Based on this theory, three types of age discrimination have harmful effects on old people’s health by affecting their psychological, behavioral and physical dimensions 27. Considering the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the evidence for the occurrence of age discrimination in the delivery of health services worldwide, and its significant effects on various aspects of their health, it is essential to conduct a systemic review of studies on the delivery of healthcare services to old people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is noteworthy that this pandemic is a new phenomenon; therefore, there are a limited number of articles on this issue. However, given the importance of this issue, the results of these studies can be useful for the health system to avoid similar cases in our community by observing the evidence for the consequences of age discrimination. In addition, searches on valid sites to find further studies will be continued. Several reports of discrimination against old people, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak, led us to conduct a study aiming at explaining different conditions of discrimination against old people in the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic.


In the present study, the scoping Review method was used to create a systematic map of existing studies on age discrimination in the delivery of health services to old people during the COVID-19 pandemic. The PRISMA checklist was also used to report the results (see Supplementary Material). The scoping review was performed using Arkesy and O’Malley’s framework 28. This framework includes the following steps.


Consulting with the research team, the desired concepts and the study population were identified, and then the main research questions were determined:

  1. What are the conditions of discrimination in the delivery of health services to old people during COVID-19 disease?


In coordination with the research team, related databases were used to find the relevant articles and appropriate search strategies for the research topic. All the considered articles were published in 2020. Since they have not referred to the causes of discrimination, this study examined the causes of discrimination in the delivery of health services to old people during COVID-19 disease.


Databases used to extract related articles in this research included PUB MED, Scopus, Web of Science, Embase, Proquest, Sciencedirect, SPRINGER, and Wiley. It was attempted to select those databases, including most terms related to the research topic. To search relevant articles, MeSH terms and other related words including “Old people”, “Ageism”, “Age Discrimination”, “Age Discriminations”, “Discrimination”, “Age”, “COVID-19”, and “ Delivery of Healthcare”, were used with and without quotation marks using the Boolean operators of “and” and “or”. Moreover, “*” star was used to expand the search if needed. The considered period was set from the beginning of 2020 when the global outbreak of COVID-19 started to November 1, 2020. The articles were evaluated in English.


Eligibility criteria and study selection

The eligibility criteria were being related to the age discrimination of old people (over 60 years of age), being related to the delivery of health services during the COVID-19 pandemic, being in English, and being accepted or published. Studies including letters to the editor, professor protocol, and unrelated results, and all dissertations and theses were excluded.


Among two similar studies, one of which was a gray article and another one was a peer review, the gray article was removed. The articles were first assessed in terms of the relevance of the title and abstract by two reviewers. If there was a disagreement between them about the inclusion of an article in the study, to avoid the risk of bias, the final agreement would be reached first through discussion and in some cases according to the third reviewer’s opinion. Next, the full texts of all studies included were retrieved and using the WEIRD (Ways of Evaluating Important and Relevant Data) tool [29], (see Supplementary Material), which is used for cross-sectional studies, their quality was assessed, and the approved articles were entered into the study (Table 1). Then, the required data were extracted from qualified articles and recorded in the Excel software. The data included study country, year, and type of study. Based on the search process, 246 articles were extracted and after removing 35 duplicates, 211 articles were entered into the study. After the initial review by two reviewers, 102 articles were excluded. Articles including letters to the editor, unrelated contents to the age discrimination in the delivery of health services to old people, and duplicate titles were excluded. Finally, 21 articles were entered into the study (Fig. 1). Included studies were on topics, such as conditions of discriminatory decisions, shortcomings leading to such decisions, anti-aging culture, and positive aspects of protocols and laws related to the delivery of healthcare to old people during the COVID-19 pandemic.


The data of included articles were examined and extracted independently by two reviewers. A table was designed to list the information of the articles in it. The information was as follows (Tab. II):

  1. Title
  2. Country of study
  3. The key points of the study

First, five articles reviewed by reviewers were compared in terms of stability of the information extracted. All of the articles included in the present study were descriptive and written merely based on the observations and available documents.


The results were extracted based on the topics and classified thematically. These themes were evaluated and approved by two independent reviewers. At this stage, with the consent of two reviewers, the disagreements were resolved by the third reviewer. The results were divided into individual and social themes, including anti-aging culture, discriminatory protocols, feelings of insignificance by old people themselves, and positive cases. The included articles covered at least one of the extracted themes. The extracted data were initially summarized as key points based on themes. The articles included in the study covered the aim of the study, which was to determine the types and causes of age discrimination. Finally, some recommendations were provided to health policymakers on effective measures to prevent ageism against old people during the COVID-19 pandemic. After obtaining permission from Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, this study was conducted with Ethical Code No. IR.MUI.RESEARCH.REC.1399.147 and Research Proposal No. 199106 by the financial support of the same university.


In this section, the identified causes of age discrimination are discussed. A review of the studies shows that they were conducted in various countries, such as Italy, China, USA, Switzerland, Spain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Poland, and France. According to them, the most cases of discrimination against old people were found in Italy, Spain and the United States, and the most protective measures were reported in Germany 30. Moreover, there were no formal cases in Belgium, Poland, France and the United Kingdom 31. However, protective laws were enacted in all countries, including the United States 2.


Expansion of the anti-aging culture in its various dimensions, especially in receiving health services, has been considered for many years 18. The present study also addresses the various dimensions of the anti-aging culture. This aspect of age discrimination reflects the discriminatory structure in society formed by the governing system, including local governments in Spain. Such a structure prevents the delivery of health services to old people and promotes injustice against them 32. For example, one can mention a television program promoting the preference for sacrificing old people to save the young in Texas, the United States 33 as a practical example of this culture. The expectation of society from old people to be sacrificed for the sake of the country’s economy is a significant issue in this regard, which was raised due to the creation of a generation called the COVID-19 generation 34,35.

The insistence of society and staff on triaging old people on their arrival in the emergency department is one of the factors reflecting the existing culture of eliminating or ignoring old people in the delivery of health services, in addition to the existing guidelines in the Corona crisis 3. In the Catalonia region, nursing home old people residents with a suspected or definitive diagnosis of COVID-19 and other underlying diseases were prohibited to refer to health centers. In addition, personal protective equipment was not provided for them, and they encountered staff shortage 31. Studies have indicated that not paying serious attention to the health of old people has caused complications of the disease in them 7. This discriminatory attitude has a negative impact on the health of old people and the whole health system 36. Age discrimination against old people before COVID-19 6 and hiding discriminatory behaviors are also examples of the anti-aging culture in the delivery of health services to old people 25.


Several articles have referred to the allocation of medical facilities to old people and discriminatory measures. For example, one can mention the priority of medical staff to receive medical services as a discriminatory measure 13,37. The following are the examples of guidelines for the delivery of health services to COVID-19 patients during the disease outbreak: exclusion of patients with underlying diseases from the list of services 9; decision on who should receive services, old people or young, with or without underlying diseases, medical staffs or other people 38; allocation of resources to those with a higher chance of survival, determination of a given age 4 to use the facilities and then reduction of it from 80 to 75 years, liberation of patients with a low chance of survival from the ventilator 25, and decision on who survives and who dies 24,25,39,40.

It was observed that age discrimination against old people influences decisions made in this regard 40. Upon old people’s arrival in the emergency and triage departments, the lowest priority was given to them to receive services and use medical facilities, which was due to the exclusion of them from treatment protocols and even lack of attention to the nursing home old people residents. This can be associated with some stereotypes in larger communities: old people do not need medical care, leading to an increase in their death rate and a negative impact on the family, friends, and society 4. In this regard, the access of the nursing home old people residents to hospitals was limited, and old people were less referred to care centers after being discharged from the hospital 31.

The priority of maintaining a maximum life and the random selection of patients with similar prognosis were among the problems of existing protocols 37. In Spain, protocols were adjusted based on patients’ age and disability, so that medical facilities and equipment such as ventilators, use of intensive care units, and home care services, were not provided to old people or disabled people, and the order of non-admission of people over 80 years of age to intensive care units was issued 32. Lack of access to treatment for old people in the hospital and lack of equipment and staff in the nursing home were other measures leading to the increased mortality rate of old people in nursing homes 7.

An emphasis was put on social distancing to prevent the spread of this disease in the development of protocols. Although the social distancing law is an essential measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 disease, in the case of old people, this law reduces care for them and limits their access to health services 4,37. Moreover, in social distancing laws, examples of vulnerability have not been specified; hence, governments have been accused of discriminatory behavior 31. This law increased the isolation and loneliness of old people, leading to an increased risk of death, an increased risk of dementia, negative effects on physical and mental health such as anxiety, depression, readmission, increased heart disease, and exacerbated high-risk behaviors, including alcohol consumption and smoking in this age group 4.


Induction of the feelings of insignificance in old people causes them not to seek treatment and their mental health is impaired; therefore, due to discriminatory behaviors, old people feel worthless and think that they impose an additional burden on their families and others 4. Additionally, rejection of the treatment and healthcare services owing to lack of care resources and facilities as their task and internalization of the worthlessness of old people’s lives 36 are examples of the feeling of insignificance perceived by old people. This feeling finally results in the lack of mental health, lack of access to health services, financial problems, and an increase in the suicide rate among old people 7. Despite the age discrimination against old people during the COVID-19 outbreak, some positive measures have been taken for them. For example, triaging in groups by experts to allocate the necessary treatment and care facilities, to communicate with a team of specialists, patients and families, to monitor the decisions taken to ensure justice, and to improve existing algorithms, has been observed. Furthermore, it has been emphasized on the transparency of the existing treatment and care guidelines on how to deal with old people 4.


The present study was an attempt to investigate the causes and types of discrimination against old people during the COVID-19 outbreak. After reviewing the included articles, it was found that most of the reports were from European countries and the United States. Many studies have been conducted on ageism in Western societies. Traxler (1980) investigated the roots of ageism among the old people in the Western world and explained its causes 41. Studies have indicated an increase in negative stereotypes about old people in recent years 42. However, the limitations of studies in other parts of the world, including ignoring ageism, should also be considered. Based on such a view, the health and life of old people become less important, and an anti-aging culture is promoted, leading to neglecting old people and causing diseases and complications in this group of people 6. Anti-aging beliefs can be observed in the community behavior. Naming the disease under the titles of “the Boomer doomer”, “the Boomer pruner” and “the Boomer remover” on social media is a sign of beliefs that young people are preferred to receive healthcare services during the COVID-19 outbreak 3,34,35.

This culture is also seen among healthcare providers. The need to prioritize young people and triage old people, which was promoted by the community 4, governments 32, and the Rosenbaum Medical Association, confirms the cultural roots of age discrimination against old people. Research suggests a growing trend of anti-aging attitudes among healthcare providers 18,43. The mentioned facts reflect injustice in the delivery of health services, which is structurally institutionalized in societies and depends on factors, such as race, social class, and gender 18. In this study, the age-related injustice was addressed. At times of an economic crisis, other types of discrimination are seen. During the COVID-19 outbreak, in addition to shortages in the area of care and equipment, there are economic problems that have led to not providing effective services to old people 44. In a study, the financial burden of ageism on 8 important health services to old people was estimated as $ 63 billion 45. Certainly, it can be stated that ageism has led to more than 6 million cases of depression among old people, and prevention of it is very cost-effective economically 18.

Although the shortage of care resources is inevitable in health crises, an anti-aging culture has been influential in developing COVID-19 care guidelines, so that old people are not directly or indirectly excluded from receiving the services. Thus, improvement of the resilience of the health system to deal with such a crisis is a priority for all public health systems 46. One can mention the following as examples of discrimination against old people in the treatment process of this disease: age limitations in receiving care and treatment services, exclusion of patients with underlying diseases from the list of the service receiver, allocation of resources to people with a higher chance of survival 4,25, preferring medical staff infected in allocating care resources 13, giving a lower priority for old people in allocating care services and equipment 4, elimination of old people from protocols to maintain the longest life years 4,37, random selection of patients with similar prognosis for the delivery of medical services.

Previous studies also confirmed that delivery of healthcare services was based on the old people’s age not their needs 47. They also suggest that age is influential in making clinical decisions and determining the type of treatment 48,49. In a meta-analysis of 400 articles conducted before the COVID-19 outbreak, 84.6% of studies reported the effect of age on the clinical decision-making 4. The effects of age discrimination on the delivery of services, in addition to hospitals, have been increasingly reported in long-term nursing homes. For example, the following were observed in the protocols: lack of equipment of centers with personal protection facilities, lack of replacement of old people caregivers or caregivers’ leave of caring old people, not referring old patients with physical dependence to hospitals by the nursing home, and not providing home care to old people.

Hence, more than half of the deaths caused by COVID-19 occurred in nursing homes 4,7,32. Studies have shown that discrimination against old people has negative consequences like a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease for old people themselves 50. The shortage of caregivers in nursing homes leads to deficiencies in care and reduces the quality of care 51. One of the preventive measures during the COVID-19 outbreak was the implementation of the social distancing law. Although it is a good method to prevent the spread of this disease, it needs to be implemented intelligently in the case of old people. The old people, who depended on other people to meet the normal needs of their lives, were forgotten in this method, and their loneliness and isolation were intensified. Quarantine reduced old people’s access to health services and care 6,37. Ageism, at the societal level, includes stereotypes, prejudgments, and practical discrimination against old people, which in turn results in neglecting old people, their social separation, and loneliness 52,53. Loneliness and social isolation are interrelated concepts but have different meanings. Isolation means reduced contact with people and the environment, while loneliness is a mental and stressful concept and occurs due to reduced social contacts 3.

Loneliness is a major problem for old people 54. Isolation and loneliness cause complications, such as anxiety, depression, cognitive disorders, heart disease, reduced quality of life, and death 3,54,55. During the COVID-19 outbreak, due to the need for social distancing, the isolation of old people from society has increased and ageism, along with the feeling of insignificance among old people, has intensified the isolation and loneliness of old people 3,54,55. Hence, it is recommended to pay more attention to the loneliness of old people during this period. Additionally, due to changes in the life style of people during the COVID-19 outbreak, there is a need to change the research attitude toward evaluating the answers, determining learned lessons, and developing the methods used to examine the loneliness and social isolation among old people 56. The feeling of insignificance among old people during the COVID-19 outbreak and dealing with discriminatory behaviors caused problems, such as lack of follow-up care and mental health disorders 4. The common discriminatory stereotypes in society are internalized by old people, and they actively distance themselves from being considered an old person so as not to be exposed to stereotypes 57.

Based on the stereotype embodiment theory, the effects of ageism on all aspects of health, including mental health, were identified and they included a decrease in self-efficacy, perceived control, and reduced meaning of life 18. Old people’s perception of aging affects their self-efficacy and consequently their physical performance, so that if they have a better feeling about aging, their self-efficacy will be higher 58. Hence, old people think they are obliged to refuse to accept health services to save the lives of young people, as this feeling of worthlessness has been institutionalized in them 36, even leading to complications like an increased suicide rate 7. On the contrary, a positive perception of aging improves health-related behaviors that are beneficial to people at risk 59 and if old people resist these negative stereotypes, symptoms, such as suicidal ideation and anxiety, will become reduced 60. It appears that old people are a heterogeneous group in health, and this issue should be considered in the treatment of these patients. Age is an inappropriate variable and very poor guidance to consider it a criterion in the delivery of care and treatment services 4. Calendar age should not be regarded as the primary criterion for determining access to medical care services 32,40, and it is required to address old people’s health needs and adopt a super-individual perspective in this regard 30.

Moreover, providing psychological support for old people during this period 61, prioritizing ethics over law 37, and paying attention to the principle of equality in receiving health services declared by the World Health Organization 32 should also be considered against discriminatory behavior during the COVID-19 outbreak to take effective steps to prevent more harm coming to this group of people. Some of the measures taken in this regard include triaging by a group of experts to allocate the necessary facilities for treatment and care, communicating with the specialist team, patient and family, monitoring the decisions taken to ensure justice, modifying existing algorithms 25, ensuring transparency of guidelines 4 and avoiding age cut-point for receiving services 4,32,39. Public education regarding the aging process and the positive roles of old people in society creates negative stereotypes about old people 62. It requires theoretical foundations. A comprehensive model in this regard refers to two basic points. The first is the importance of education in the aging process and the positive roles of old people to reduce the negative mentality in aging, and the second is to provide opportunities to contact with old people in the form of personal experiences that lead to development of opportunities for cooperation and sharing personal information 63. Fortunately, positive attitudes have been reported more than negative attitudes among hospital staff in some studies 33,64. Furthermore, the positive attitude of old people toward themselves has been effective in reducing the complications of COVID-19 39. Among the measures to protect old people during the COVID-19 outbreak period, one can mention protection laws for old people, such as presence of them at less busy times of day for shops, complete disinfection of places where old people are present, and delivering their needed goods at their homes. Although the social distancing law is useful for old people, its consequences must be considered 4. Thus, ageism should be considered one of the social determinants of health and should be seriously addressed. Owing to discriminatory behaviors in the delivery of health services to old people, it is necessary for health policymakers to develop protocols related to the delivery of care in this group and enact protective laws in a way that the least harm comes to this vulnerable group. It is also recommended that healthcare staff be trained to provide services for old people.


Given the global nature of the agism phenomenon, it is better to use the methods used in countries like Germany, to deal with crises related to this phenomenon. The number of deaths due to COVID-19 is not just numbers but the number of lives lost. The existence of anti-ageism laws is highly important in cases of humanitarian crises.

Educating children about the importance of the presence of old people in society and combating the discriminatory culture against old people will improve society’s outlook on old people, especially their health. Therefore, at times of crisis, old people, like other high-risk groups, such as children and pregnant women, should be given special attention. In this regard, the training of health personnel is vital.

Preparing people for old age, particularly the middle age, will increase their self-confidence and awareness of the presence of the elderly in society and will prevent them from neglecting themselves.


First, all available studies were descriptive, and this prevented accurate conclusions. Second, most of the studies were conducted in Western countries, and no information was available from less developed countries. Third, most reports of ageism during the COVID-19 outbreak were not officially available in scientific institutes and associations, and except for a few of them 34,39,54,77; the remaining studies were the result of unofficial observations and reports. Moreover, protocols were preferably implemented secretly 23.

Ethical consideration

This study was approved by Isfahan University of Medical Science ethics committee.


We respectfully thank Professor Ziba Farajzadegan for her guidance.


This work was supported by Isfahan University of Medical Sciences.

Conflict of interest

The Authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

Figures and tables

Figure 1-.Flowchart of article selection.

N Study (all are 2020) 1. Is there a clearly stated aim,objective orpurposefor thesourcematerial? 2. Is there a clear description of thesource ofthe informationreported (transparency)? 3. Is there a clear description of theprogrammeor intervention or policy or reformon which thesource material focuses? 4. Is there a clear description of thecontext/s towhich the informationdescribed inthe sourcematerial relates? 5. Is the in formation accurate?(non-empiricalstudies) 7. Is the evidencerepresentative? 8. Are any limitations ofthe informationand/ormethodsdiscussedin thesourcematerial? 9. Is evidence providedto support anyfindingsor conclusionsmade? 10. Arerelevant rights andethicsconsiderations described 11. Are anyinterest declaredand any potential conflicts of interest noted? Overall assessment
1 Grzelka 15 Y Y U Y Y Y Y Y N Y Serious concern
2 Cezari Cesari M, Proietti M 14 U Y Y Y Y N N U Y N Serious concern
3 DePergola 11 Y Y Y Y Y Y U Y Y U No or very minor concern
4 White 13 Y Y Y Y Y U N U Y Y Serious concern
5 Rudolph 6 Y Y Y Y Y U N Y Y N Serious concern
6 Comas-Herrera A, et al. 1 U Y Y Y Y U N Y Y Y Serious concern
7 Lloyd-Sherlock 35 U Y Y Y Y U N U U Y Serious concern
8 Monahan 4 Y Y Y Y Y N N U Y N Serious concern
9 Petretto D R, Pili R, 2020 62 Y Y Y Y Y U Y Y Y Y No or very minor voncern
10 Gallina 37 Y U Y Y Y U Y U Y N Serious voncern
11 Merodio 32 Y Y Y Y U Y Y Y Y U No or very minor concern
12 Miralles 31 Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y No or very minor concern
13 Morrow-Howell 34 Y U Y U Y U U Y U Y Minor concern
14 Shadmi 66 Y Y Y Y Y Y U Y Y Y No or very minor concern
15 Swazo NK, et al. 38 Y Y Y Y Y U Y Y Y Y No or very minor concern
16 Colenda CC, et al., 2020 24 Y U Y U Y U N Y N N Serious concern
17 Lichtenstein B, 2020 41 Y Y Y Y Y Y U Y U Y No or very minor concern
18 Ehni HJ, Wahl HW 36 Y U Y U Y U Y U Y y Minor concern
19 Falandry C, et al. 67 Y U Y Y U N N N Y Y Serious concern
20 Ayalon L, et al. 40 U Y Y U Y Y N Y Y N Serious concern
21 Marckmann G, et al., 2020 30 Y Y Y Y Y Y U Y Y N Serious concern
Table I.Assessment of methodological concerns using WEIRD tool for descriptive studies.
Goal country Author N
To study how Polish public perceive vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 outbreak Poland Grzelka 1
To study ageism and decisions made during the COVID-19 outbreak despite the limited resources at the height of the disease Italy Cesari M, Proietti M 2
To provide basic ethical guidelines to treat patients with suspected or definitive diagnosis of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and to address the moral considerations inherent to caring for this patient population, especially in the context of scarce resource allocation, imposition of restrictions to individual freedoms, and de facto social distancing United States of America DePergola 11 3
Presenting a framework for rationing ventilators and critical care beds during COVID-19 pandemic United States of America White 9 4
Reviewing emerging discriminatory issue and presenting evidence against attempts to define “the COVID-19 Generation” as a new construct along with conceptual, methodological and practical lines, with a specific focus on identifying real dangers related to examining and potentially managing a new generation related to this pandemic in media Germany Rudolph 35 5
Evaluating the effect of COVID-19 on care home residents and staff and as new and updated information and data become available, summarizing information from three types of sources: epidemiological studies, official estimates and news reports United Kingdom Comas-Herrera A, et al 1 6
Investigating impacts of COVID-19 on elderly in low- and middle-income countries United Kingdom Lloyd-Sherlock 7
Investigating positive and negative responses toward older adults during COVID-19 pandemic and the expected short- and long-term consequences such as affecting beliefs about and treatment of older adults, intergenerational relations, and individuals’ mental and physical health. The study addresses policy changes to health care (triaging, elder abuse), employment (layoffs, retirement), and education about ageism United States of America Monahan 8
Investigating the role of elderly in COVID-19 based on media Italy Petretto DR, Pili R, 2020 62 9
To study decisions to offer interventions with limited availability of medical resources Italy Gallina 37 10
To collect evidence on hospital healthcare experiences of elderly infected by COVID-19 and to analyze elements that have positively affected elderly perceived health and well-being Spain Merodio 11
Summarizing actions, health policies and clinical guidelines adopted by six European countries during the pandemic and assessing the effect of national policies on reducing unfavorable effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in elderly Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, Spain and United Kingdom Miralles 12
Recovering from the COVID-19 Pandemic in older adults with an focus on increased comfort through technology and online platforms; stronger family and intergenerational connections, renewed energy to combat social isolation; more respect for self-care and time management; enhanced knowledge on the importance of advance directives; and, potentially, increased interest across disciplines to address the issues of aging society United States of America Morrow-Howell 13
1. Exploring the challenges to health equity and describing some of the approaches adopted by governments and local organizations in 13 countries during Covid-19 pandemic2. Encouraging researchers to continue advancing global knowledge on COVID-19 health equity related issues, through rigorous studies and generation of a strong evidence based on new empirical studies in this field China, Brazil, Thailand, Sub Saharan Africa, Nicaragua, Armenia, India, Guatemala, United States of America (USA), Israel, Australia, Colombia, and Belgium Shadmi 14
Evaluating the challenges faced by Bangladeshi physicians in treating and refraining COVID-19 patients Bangladesh Swazo NK, et al. 15
Presenting this perspective as a way to enhance knowledge of people about ageism concerning coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, and acknowledging the extraordinary work that healthcare providers across all disciplines, including geriatrics, are doing at the frontlines of care, and also presenting these thoughts as advocates for older patients, their families, their providers, and the broader community Italy Colenda CC, et al., 2020 16
Comparing responses to COVID-19 control in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, 3 countries where public ageism erupted over the social and economic costs of protecting older adults from COVID-19 America Lichtenstein B, 2020 41 17
To provide suggestions on how to deal with beliefs and discriminatory behaviors against older people in COVID-19 pandemic Germany Ehni HJ, Wahl HW 18
Investigating the challenges of management of elderly with cancer disease during the COVID-19 pandemic such as increased risks of COVID-19 infection and the temptations of ageism France Falandry C, et al. 19
To present some recommendations on how to navigate the current pandemic in the world and confront ageism and intergenerational division International Ayalon L, et al. 20
To exame the decisions made on the allocation of intensive care resources in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide some clinical and ethical recommendations Germany Marckmann G, et al. 21
Table II.Reviewed articles (author, country, summary of results).


  1. Comas-Herrera A, Zalakain J, Lemmon E. Mortality associated with COVID-19 outbreaks in care homes: early international evidence. International Long-Term Care Policy Network. 2020.
  2. WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard. World Health Organization. 2021. Publisher Full Text
  3. Brooke J, Jackson D. Older people and COVID-19: Isolation, risk and ageism. J Clin Nurs. 2020; 29:2044-2046. DOI
  4. Monahan C, McDonald J, Ashley L. COVID-19 and ageism: how positive and negative responses impact older adults and society. Am Psychol. 2020; 75:887-896. DOI
  5. Rahimi M, Maracy MR, Shahraki RA. A survey of knowledge, attitude and practice of the older people about COVID-19 pandemic in Isfahan, Iran. Journal of Gerontology and Geriatrics. 2020; 68:204-211. DOI
  6. Lloyd-Sherlock P, Ebrahim S, Geffen L. Bearing the brunt of COVID-19: older people in low and middle income countries. BMJ. 2020; 368:m1052. DOI
  7. Flett GL, Heisel MJ. Aging and feeling valued versus expendable during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond: a review and commentary of why mattering is fundamental to the health and well-being of older adults. Int J Ment Health Addict. 2020;1-27. DOI
  8. Mahmoodi R, Hassanzadeh A, Rahimi M. Health literacy and its dimensions in elderly people in Farsan city, Iran. J Edu Health Promot. 2021; 10:362. DOI
  9. Fox MT, Persaud M, Maimets I. Effectiveness of acute geriatric unit care using acute care for elders components: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2012; 60:2237-2245. DOI
  10. Lachs MS, Williams CS, O'Brien S. The mortality of elder mistreatment. JAMA. 1998; 280:428-432.
  11. DePergola PA. Ethical guidelines for the treatment of patients with suspected or confirmed novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). J Health Ethics. 2020; 16:4. DOI
  12. Fraser S, Lagacé M, Bongué B. Ageism and COVID-19: what does our society’s response say about us?. Age Ageing. 2020; 49:692-695. DOI
  13. White DB, Lo B. A Framework for rationing ventilators and critical care beds during the COVID-19 pandemic. JAMA. 2020; 323:1773-1774. DOI
  14. Cesari M, Proietti M. COVID-19 in Italy: ageism and decision making in a pandemic. J Am Med Directors Ass. 2020; 21:576-577. DOI
  15. Grzelka M. Attitudes toward vulnerable populations in the time of COVID-19: critical discourse analysis of Gazeta. Pl Online Comment Sections. Society Register. 2020; 4:121-132. DOI
  16. Harper S. A chance to create a better world?. J Popul Ageing. 2020; 13:281-283. DOI
  17. Jackson SE, Hackett RA, Steptoe A. Associations between age discrimination and health and wellbeing: cross-sectional and prospective analysis of the English longitudinal study of ageing. The Lancet Public Health. 2019; 4:e200-e208. DOI
  18. Chang E-S, Kannoth S, Levy S. Global reach of ageism on older persons’ health: a systematic review. PLoS One. 2020; 15:e0220857. DOI
  19. Kydd A, Fleming A. Ageism and age discrimination in health care: fact or fiction? A narrative review of the literature. Maturitas. 2015; 81:432-438. DOI
  20. Toygar I, Kardakovan A. Factors affecting the attitudes of nursing students toward ageism. Nursing Practice Today. 2020; 7:38-44. DOI
  21. Kagan SH, Melendez-Torres G. Ageism in nursing. J Nurs Manag. 2015; 23:644-650. DOI
  22. Rippon I, Kneale D, de Oliveira C. Perceived age discrimination in older adults. Age Ageing. 2014; 43:379-386. DOI
  23. Bagenstos SR. May hospitals withhold ventilators from COVID-19 patients with pre-existing disabilities? Notes on the law and ethics of disability-based medical rationing. Notes on the law and ethics of disability-based medical rationing (March 24, 2020). 2020. DOI
  24. Colenda CC, Reynolds CF, Applegate WB. COVID-19 pandemic and ageism: a call for humanitarian care. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2020; 68:1627-1628. DOI
  25. Rosenbaum L. Facing COVID-19 in Italy – ethics, logistics, and therapeutics on the epidemic’s front line. New Engl J Med. 2020; 382:1873-1875. DOI
  26. Utych SM, Fowler L. Age-based messaging strategies for communication about COVID-19. J Behav Public Administr. 2020;3. DOI
  27. Levy B. Stereotype embodiment: a psychosocial approach to aging. Curr Direct Psychol Sci. 2009; 18:332-336. DOI
  28. Conway A, Reszel J, Walker MC. Obstetrical safety indicators for preventing hospital harms in low risk births: a scoping review protocol. BMJ Open. 2020; 10:e036203. DOI
  29. Lewin S, Langlois E, Tuncalp Ö. WEIRD (Ways of Evaluating Important and Relevant Data) tool Questions to guide assessment/critical appraisal of programme descriptions, implementation descriptions and other mainly descriptive types of evidence. 2019. Publisher Full Text
  30. Marckmann G, Neitzke G, Schildmann J. Decisions on the allocation of intensive care resources in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic: clinical and ethical recommendations of DIVI, DGINA, DGAI, DGIIN, DGNI, DGP, DGP and AEM. Med Klin Intensivmed Notfmed. 2020; 115:115-122. DOI
  31. Miralles O, Sanchez-Rodriguez D, Marco E. Unmet needs, health policies, and actions during the COVID-19 pandemic: a report from six European countries. Eur Geriatr Med. 2021; 12:193-204. DOI
  32. Merodio G, Ramis-Salas M, Valero D. How much is one life worth? The right to equity healthcare for improving older patients’ health infected by COVID-19. Sustainability. 2020; 12:6848. DOI
  33. Maxfield M, Pituch KA. COVID-19 worry, mental health indicators, and preparedness for future care needs across the adult lifespan. Aging Ment Health. 2021; 25:1273-1280. DOI
  34. Morrow-Howell N, Galucia N, Swinford E. Recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic: a focus on older adults. J Aging Soc Pol. 2020; 32:526-535. DOI
  35. Rudolph CWZ. “The COVID-19 generation”: a cautionary note. Work Aging Retir. 2020. DOI
  36. Ehni HJ, Wahl HW. Six propositions against ageism in the COVID-19 pandemic. J Aging Soc Policy. 2020; 32:515-525. DOI
  37. Gallina P, Ricci M, Pera M. COVID-19: decisions to offer interventions with limited availability should be decided based on chance of recovery. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2020; 21:993-994. DOI
  38. Swazo NK, Talukder MMH, Ahsan MK. A duty to treat? A right to refrain? Bangladeshi physicians in moral dilemma during COVID-19. Philos Ethics Humanit Med. 2020; 15:7. DOI
  39. Ayalon L. There is nothing new under the sun: ageism and intergenerational tension in the age of the COVID-19 outbreak. Int Psychogeriatr. 2020;1-4. DOI
  40. Lichtenstein B. From “Coffin Dodger” to “Boomer Remover:” outbreaks of ageism in three countries with divergent approaches to coronavirus control. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2021; 76:e206-e212. DOI
  41. Traxler AJ. Let’s get gerontologized: developing a sensitivity to aging. Southern Illinois University: Edwardsville; 1980.
  42. Ng R, Allore HG, Trentalange M. Increasing negativity of age stereotypes across 200 years: evidence from a database of 400 million words. PLoS One. 2015; 10:e0117086. DOI
  43. Liu Y-E, Norman IJ, While AE. Nurses’ attitudes towards older people: a systematic review. Int J Nurs Stud. 2013; 50:1271-1282. DOI
  44. Krosch AR, Amodio DM. Economic scarcity alters the perception of race. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2014; 111:9079-9084. DOI
  45. Levy BR, Slade MD, Chang E-S. Ageism amplifies cost and prevalence of health conditions. Gerontologist. 2020; 60:174-181. DOI
  46. Di Gennaro F, Gualano G, Timelli L. Increase in tuberculosis diagnostic delay during first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic: data from an Italian infectious disease referral hospital. Antibiotics. 2021; 10:272. DOI
  47. Madan AK, Aliabadi-Wahle S, Beech DJ. Age bias: a cause of underutilization of breast conservation treatment. J Canc Educ. 2001; 16:29-32. DOI
  48. Barnow S, Linden M, Lucht M. Influence of age of patients who wish to die on treatment decisions by physicians and nurses. Am J Geriatr Psych. 2004; 12:258-264.
  49. Votron L, D'Hoore W, Swine C. The opinion of general practitioners on the treatment of prostate and breast cancer in elderly people: results of a survey based on clinical models. Clin Oncol. 2004; 16:474-478. DOI
  50. Levy BR, Ferrucci L, Zonderman AB. A culture-brain link: negative age stereotypes predict Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers. Psychol Aging. 2016; 31:82. DOI
  51. Rahimi M, Fadayevatan R, Abedi H. Care instability in nursing homes; a qualitative study. Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2017; 1:628-629. DOI
  52. Shiovitz-Ezra S, Shemesh J, McDonnell M. contemporary perspectives on ageism. Springer: New York, NY; 2018.
  53. Swift HJ, Abrams D, Lamont RA. The risks of ageism model: how ageism and negative attitudes toward age can be a barrier to active aging. Soc Issues Pol Rev. 2017;11. DOI
  54. Dykstra PA. Older adult loneliness: myths and realities. Eur J Ageing. 2009; 6:91. DOI
  55. Barth J, Schneider S, Von Känel R. Lack of social support in the etiology and the prognosis of coronary heart disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychosom Med. 2010; 72:229-238. DOI
  56. Berg-Weger M, Morley J. Loneliness and social isolation in older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic: implications for gerontological social work. Springer: New York, NY; 2020. DOI
  57. Van der Horst M. Internalised ageism and self-exclusion: does feeling old and health pessimism make individuals want to retire early?. Soc Inclusion. 2019; 7:27-43. DOI
  58. Tovel H, Carmel S, Raveis VH. Relationships among self-perception of aging, physical functioning, and self-efficacy in late life. J Gerontol Series B. 2019; 74:212-221. DOI
  59. Klusmann V, Sproesser G, Wolff JK. Positive self-perceptions of aging promote healthy eating behavior across the life span via social-cognitive processes. J Gerontol Series B. 2019; 74:735-744. DOI
  60. Levy BR, Pilver CE, Pietrzak RH. Lower prevalence of psychiatric conditions when negative age stereotypes are resisted. Soc Sci Med. 2014; 119:170-174. DOI
  61. Petretto DR, Pili R. Ageing and COVID-19: what is the role for elderly people?. Geriatrics. 2020; 5:4. DOI
  62. Lytle A, Macdonald J, Apriceno M. Reducing ageism with brief videos about aging education, ageism, and intergenerational contact. Gerontologist. 2021; 61:1164-1168. DOI
  63. Levy SR. Toward reducing ageism: PEACE (positive education about aging and contact experiences) model. Gerontologist. 2018; 58:226-232. DOI
  64. ŞİMŞEK H, Bahadir H, Bilgin AC. Physicians’attitudes towards the elderly: ageism in a university hospital in Turkey. Türk Geriatri Dergisi. 2019;22.
  65. Shadmi E, Chen Y, Dourado I. Health equity and COVID-19: global perspectives. Int J Equity Health. 2020; 19:104. DOI
  66. Falandry C, Filteau C, Ravot C. Challenges with the management of older patients with cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic. J Geriatr Oncol. 2020; 11:747-749. DOI


Seyede Shahrbanoo Daniali

Health Education and Health Promotion. Child Growth and Development Research Center, Research Institute for Primordial Prevention of Non-Communicable Disease, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran:

Majid Rahimi

Department of Health Education and Promotion, School of Health, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran

Shahin Salarvand

Department of Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifary, Lorestan University of Medical Sciences, Khorramabad, Iran



How to Cite

Daniali, S.S., Rahimi, M. and Salarvand, S. 2021. Age discrimination in delivery of health services to old people during COVID-19 pandemic: a scoping review study. JOURNAL OF GERONTOLOGY AND GERIATRICS. 70, 1 (Oct. 2021), 68-82. DOI:
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