Movement Building

Ethnic Minority Older People, Histories of Structural Racism and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Written by:
Jenny Hewitt and Dharmi Kapadia
Read time:
10 minutes

We know that COVID-19 has had a catastrophically disproportionate impact on our ethnic minority communities. This briefing looks in particular at the impact the pandemic has had on older ethnic minority people, and how this group have faced unique barriers as a consequence of COVID-19.

Key points:

  • Older ethnic minority people are more at risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus and to the social difficulties exacerbated by the pandemic due to longstanding inequalities in housing, health, employment and resources. These inequalities are (both historically and today) largely structural in nature.
  • Older ethnic minority people have been deeply affected by isolation as a result of lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The loss of social spaces, like those provided by voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations, have been felt acutely by racially minoritised people in later life, who often use social spaces as a means of accessing cultural connection, support, and advice and information. The lack of digital access for some ethnic minority older people, coupled with language barriers for others, has further hindered their ability to maintain social connections and access resources and information.
  • Vaccine hesitancy is much more complex than has been painted by media discourses. The majority of older ethnic minority people featured in our study had accepted, and indeed had received, the vaccine but described friends and family members in their community feeling distrust of the government’s motives, making historical associations with eugenics and testing done on ethnic minority people, and feeling insulted and misunderstood by the racialised messages being conveyed about the reasons for vaccine hesitancy.

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