In recognition of National Minority Health Month, the Diverse Elders Coalition is featuring stories relevant to the health disparities and health issues affecting diverse older adults during April. A new story will be shared every Wednesday with additional posts shared throughout the month. Be sure to visit diverseelders.org regularly during the month of April.
My stepmother, Miss Fannie embodies this year’s National Minority Health Month theme “Prevention is Power: Taking Action for Health Equity.” She didn’t always. She used to be one of the statistics that abound in the African American community about Black people. You see as an African American adult female, aged 65+, with less than a college education, she was among the percentage of people with uncontrolled hypertension, and in the group of elders with uncontrolled diabetes whose “sugar” dropped on a regular basis. Miss Fannie also lived a somewhat isolated and sedentary life and tipped the scales at over 200 pounds, becoming part of the largest cohort of obese individuals in the country – yes, African American women.
We know that many of these outcomes are the result of health and economic disparities, cultural barriers and outright discrimination. However, I contend that programs and initiatives that provide culturally appropriate and consistent messaging, and foster awareness and encourage simple changes – do supply the tools required to induce steps toward positive changes and can improve health.
Miss Fannie’s health did improve. Almost four years ago, at age 76, Miss Fannie began to attend one of the DC Office on Aging Senior Wellness Centers three times a week. The Center picked her up at her home and brought her home in the evening. The workers called her Ms. Woody or Miss Fannie and called when she was not out waiting on the porch. She became less isolated and made friends with many people who were her peers and had similar life experiences. In addition to a nutritional lunch and the traditional bingo, she and her companions learned about and participated in a City activity. One day my nonpolitical stepmother is telling us she participated in a conversation with the Mayor at a senior forum she attended!! [My silent response although positive, took a deeper dive to: who are you and where is my stepmother??]