Education + Action = Prevention Power (National Minority Health Month)

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 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??]
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Enthusiasm and Partnerships Overcome the Vastness of Alaska for Healthcare Enrollment (National Minority Health Month)

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 regularly during the month of April.

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) has a bold vision: to ensure that Alaska Native people are the healthiest people in the world. By working to ensure that all Alaska Native and American Indians in Alaska have health insurance, the ANTHC is helping to eliminate long entrenched health disparities. ANTHC was formed almost 20 years ago as a nonprofit health organization that offers quality health care services for all Alaska Natives and American Indians.

Monique Martin - ANTHC Healthcare Navigator

Monique Martin – ANTHC Healthcare Navigator

Recently, the National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA) spoke with Monique Martin, a dedicated healthcare navigator for ANTHC. Growing up in Southeast Alaska gave Monique insight on the best ways to communicate with Alaska Native/American Indian elders across the state. She has traveled the land, teaching about the Affordable Care Act, enrolling and sharing what she knows.

Partnerships were formed with other organizations that had a shared vision to help in tackling the task. The United Way of Anchorage, AARP, Alaska Primary Care Association and the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center all came together to spread the word about the Affordable Care Act.

Monique said that when they started there was a general lack of information and citizens were seeking a source for reliable, unbiased information. ANTHC has become that source with a content-rich website that has an authentic “Alaska feel”. To make sure the educational materials had that crucial “Alaska feel” they made everything as Alaska Native specific as possible. They took generic PowerPoint slides and took out anything that did not apply to Alaska. They added pictures that reflected the people they were speaking with. They stuck with plain language. For example, instead of the phrase “shared responsibility”; they used the term “tax penalty”. The result was that the message felt like it was coming from your neighbor, someone you know. Personalizing the message makes it more real and more believable. Read More Read More

The Growing, Neglected Challenges of LGBT Latino Elders

Latino elders who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) face additional challenges as they age, compounded by barriers rooted in their racial and ethnic identities, as well as LGBT stigma and discrimination. Yet the attention and infrastructure to ameliorate these conditions is generally lacking. That’s the overarching conclusion reached by the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) in a first-ever national needs assessment examining the social, economic and political realities of a growing, though multiply marginalized, population.

NCHOA’s report speaks to a timely moment. Demographics project a significant increase in Latino people and older people over the next few decades, trends rooted largely in immigration and the aging of the Baby Boom generation, respectively. For example, the U.S. Census estimates that the number of Latino people age 60 and older will sky-rocket from 4.3 million in 2010 to 22.6 million in 2050. And as societal attitudes and policy changes have made it easier for some segments of the LGBT population to “come out” and live openly, LGBT older people have become increasingly visible in both the aging and long-term care system, as well as society at large.

Yet NHCOA’s new report—released in partnership with the national LGBT aging advocacy non-profit, SAGE—contends that this wave has left behind a more marginalized population: LGBT Latino elders. Based on a year’s worth of expert interviews, a literature review (that tellingly emphasizes the general dearth in research on LGBT Latino people) and focus groups in four major metropolitan cities with high concentrations of Latinos and LGBT people, NHCOA paints a portrait of Latino LGBT elders aging in communities that aren’t accepting of their full identities. LGBT Latinos also report both fearing and encountering biased care providers without the skills or resources to support their unique needs. Read More Read More

Health Benefits of Pet Ownership for Older Adults (National Minority Health Month)

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 regularly during the month of April.

April is National Minority Health Month, and the theme for this year is “Prevention is Power: Taking Action for Health Equity.” There are a lot of things diverse older adults can do to prevent serious health problems. Eating a healthy diet, exercising, and having regular checkups from a health care provider can all help prevent serious health issues. Pet ownership can also help improve the health of older adults. For those who are able, walking a dog or just caring for a pet can provide exercise and companionship. Unlike dieting, exercising, and visiting health care providers, however, pet ownership does not require a high level of health literacy.

The author, Jason Coates, and his cat, Sal

The author, Jason Coates, and his cat, Sal

Many diverse older adults are at risk of isolation, though the companionship of a pet can help reduce this risk. Cultural and linguistic barriers keep many diverse seniors from developing new social contacts, and this is harmful to health. Hispanic and Asian American older adults are at particular risk of becoming isolated by cultural and linguistic barriers. LGBT seniors, including many that have experienced a lifetime of discrimination, are at risk of isolation as well. Pets provide a contact for older adults and the routine of caring for a grateful pet can provide meaning and a sense of self-worth for older adults. Taking dogs and cats for a walk also gives older adults a reason to go outdoors and interact with others. Read More Read More

Call for stories/interviews: diverse older adults 50+ living with HIV/AIDS

Please help us make a difference by sharing your story. We’re looking for stories (we can use your name or an alias) to include in our upcoming report. About the report: In May, the Diverse Elders Coalition will publish a critically needed and groundbreaking report about diverse older adults living with HIV/AIDS. It will detail how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has affected health coverage for diverse older people (people of color and/or LGBT) and now that enrollment has concluded offer policy recommendations to our nation’s decision makers.

Additionally, we are looking for diverse older adults living with HIV/AIDS who are willing to speak with the media (we will provide training), but this is not a requirement in sharing your story for our report.

Stories change minds—and we can use your help. One of the most powerful and effective ways to educate the public and build momentum for increasing support to older adults living with HIV is to share stories. The Diverse Elders Coalition is looking for stories that are personal, emotional and show the strength of our community despite great adversity—we know by telling these kinds of stories that change is possible.

Contact Patrick Aitcheson at to tell your story. If you know of an older adult living with HIV/AIDS who has a story to share, please share this post.

To learn more about the Diverse Elders Coalition, visit

HHS announces important Medicare information for people in same-sex marriages

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is now able to process requests for Medicare Part A and Part B Special Enrollment Periods, and reductions in Part B and premium Part A late enrollment penalties for certain eligible people in same-sex marriages. This is another step HHS is taking in response to the June 26, 2013 Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, which held section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Because of this ruling, Medicare is no longer prevented by DOMA from recognizing same-sex marriages for determining entitlement to, or eligibility, for Medicare.

“Today’s announcement helps to clarify the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision and to ensure that all married couples are treated equally under the law,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We are working together with SSA to process these requests in a timely manner to ensure all beneficiaries, regardless of sexual orientation, are treated fairly under the law.”

While Medicare is managed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), SSA is responsible for determining eligibility for, and enrolling people in, Medicare.

For additional information, please visit:


To receive future updates from HHS:

Like HHS on Facebook, follow HHS on Twitter @HHSgov, and sign up for HHS Email Updates
Follow HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Twitter @Sebelius

10 Key Points to Know About Health Disparities among Asian American and Pacific Islander Elders (National Minority Health Month)

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 regularly during the month of April.

April is National Minority Health Month. It is a great time to raise awareness of the health disparities that affect racial and ethnic minorities.

In the spirit of raising awareness, here are 10 important things you should know about health disparities among Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) elders including some helpful resources from the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA):


  1. Heart disease, cancer, and stroke are the leading causes of death among AAPIs aged 65 years and older. These account for over 50% of all deaths in this age range.
  2. AAPIs are at higher risk for Hepatitis B, which can lead to liver cancer. Approximately 1 in 12 AAPIs are living with chronic Hepatitis B, and the death rate from Hepatitis B among AAPIs is 7 times greater than rates among whites.
  3. Despite having lower body weight, Asian Americans are more likely than whites to have diabetes. Of Asian Americans who develop the disease, more than 95% are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
  4. Read More Read More

One Last Push: What you must know before March 31 if you are HIV+

Time is ticking. You and your loved ones only have until March 31st to apply for health insurance. Don’t delay.

Under the Affordable Care Act (or ACA), the Health Insurance Marketplace ensures that no application for health insurance is rejected due to preexisting medical conditions, such as HIV, which disproportionately affects communities of color and older people. Did You Know? Research projects that within the next few years, one in two people with HIV in this country will be age 50 or older. One in Two!

The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) knows that understanding the Health Insurance Marketplace can feel a lot like piecing together a puzzle.  With only days left to apply for insurance, it can be especially overwhelming—and there is no time to waste.

This is why we are bringing all the necessary information to you, centralized in one place. If you are (or someone you know is) an older adult, living with HIV/AIDS, needs insurance or just have some last minute questions about the health insurance marketplace, let us help you.

Take a look below and open up the section that is most relevant to you.

I don’t have insurance
If you are an older person living with HIV, The ACA is a big help. Because of the ACA, health insurance is easier to get and can be more affordable.

All private health insurance plans offered in the Marketplace will offer the same set of essential health benefits. These benefits include areas of significant importance to HIV+ people such as prescription drugs, lab services and chronic disease management. Without the ACA, private insurance options have varied widely from limited or no coverage in some states to very expensive comprehensive coverage in other states. For example, prior to this year’s implementation of the Health Insurance Marketplace, New York had no exclusions for pre-existing conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease or being HIV+, however individual HMO coverage with a major insurer cost $1,409 per month in 2013. This price point was extremely unaffordable for many HIV+ older adults. When the ACA was implemented in January 2014, “gold” level coverage from the same insurer cost $688 per month. That’s $721 less a month or $8,652 more a year in an HIV+ older person’s pocket. Based on income levels, there is also the opportunity to qualify for an Advanced Premium Tax Credit to further decrease the cost of health insurance. For HIV+ older people, the Health Insurance Marketplace is yet another major benefit of the Affordable Care Act.

Learn more on why the ACA is a big help to HIV+ older adults

Apply for health insurance. Download our flyer, Why the ACA Matters to Our Communities, which offers step-by-step instructions for enrolling in the Marketplace (also available in Chinese ∣ Vietnamese ∣ Korean ∣ Spanish)

I have Medicaid
If you are currently covered under Medicaid, there is nothing you need to do. If you are unsure if you are eligible for Medicaid, click this link to see if you qualify.

Medicaid serves as the single largest payer of long-term care in the United States, which is often necessary for older adults and people with disabilities who rely on institutional or in-home health services. Medicaid is also the largest source of funding for medical and health-related services for people with low income in the country, including many older adults with HIV. Additionally, many people with HIV qualify as disabled if their condition has progressed and they have been diagnosed with AIDS.

If you don’t qualify, visit and check your options for buying health insurance.

Need help applying? Download our flyer, Why the ACA Matters to Our Communities, which offers step-by-step instructions for enrolling in the Marketplace (also available in Chinese ∣ Vietnamese ∣ Korean ∣ Spanish)

My job gives me insurance
If you currently have insurance through your employer or that of your spouse or a family member, there is nothing you need to do.

However, if you feel that you can find a cheaper plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace or know that circumstances at work will change, visit and check your options for buying health insurance.

Need help applying? Download our flyer, Why the ACA Matters to Our Communities, which offers step-by-step instructions for enrolling in the Marketplace (also available in Chinese ∣ Vietnamese ∣ Korean ∣ Spanish)

I’m 65 or older and have Medicare
Medicare is critically important to the health and economic well-being of diverse older adults. Among those over age 55, 46 percent of Latinos are covered by Medicare, 43 percent of Asians, and 52 percent of African Americans.

If you are already on Medicare, the Marketplace does not affect you. However, the ACA has provisions that have improved the benefits older people 65+ get through Medicare, including lower-cost prescription drugs and free preventive services.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait a while for the next Medicare open enrollment. It will run from October 15-December 7, 2014.

I get support from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program
If you don’t currently have insurance (such as through an employer, Medicare or Medicaid), but currently receive support from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) for your HIV care and treatment needs, you’ll need to buy health insurance.

It’s important to note that some states have expanded Medicaid, meaning if you weren’t eligible before, you may now be. Click this link to see if you qualify.

If you don’t qualify for Medicaid, visit and check your options for buying health insurance.

Need help applying? Download our flyer, Why the ACA Matters to Our Communities, which offers step-by-step instructions for enrolling in the Marketplace (also available in Chinese ∣ Vietnamese ∣ Korean ∣ Spanish)

I am an immigrant living with HIV
If you are an immigrant living with HIV, how the Marketplace will impact you depends on your immigration status.

For the 10 million non-citizens living in the United States legally, they are expected to gain health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace. This means that even for an older person 65+ who has not met the work requirements to qualify for Medicare, they will be able to shop for insurance in the Marketplace.

Unfortunately, the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States are not eligible to buy health insurance in the Marketplace.  For this reason, undocumented immigrants are not subject to the mandate that nearly all residents carry insurance or pay a financial penalty. Those undocumented immigrants who need health care have the option of using the nation’s 8,500 community health centers (they do not ask about immigration status) or visit a hospital’s emergency room.

It’s important to note that Ryan White services and medications are free for those with an income under $44,680, regardless of immigration status.

I need more time. Can I apply for health insurance after March 31?
An important note from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS):

The deadline for open enrollment is March 31st.    As the Administration said previously, those consumers who are in line by the March 31st deadline to complete enrollment, we will make sure you get covered.  Just like Election Day, if you are in line when the polls close, you get to vote.  We won’t close the door on those who tried to get covered and were unable to do so through no fault of their own.  So, those who were in line or had technical problems with the website can quickly come back and sign up as soon as possible.

Additionally, CMS also is clarifying that under limited circumstances, people with complex cases may qualify for a special enrollment period.  These include, for example, victims of domestic abuse and consumers who were found ineligible for Medicaid, but whose accounts were not transferred to the Marketplace in a timely way before March 31.  These special cases are for specific situations where a consumer was not able to successfully complete enrollment during the open enrollment period despite their efforts to do so and through no fault of their own.

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Do You Have Diabetes? – National Diabetes Alert Day

March 25 is National Diabetes Alert Day. It is an annual one-day, wake-up call to inform the American public about the seriousness of diabetes, particularly when diabetes is left undiagnosed or untreated and to encourage everyone to take the Diabetes Risk Test.

Diabetes is a serious disease with 1.9 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes every year. Currently ~26 million Americans have diabetes and another 79 million adults have prediabetes. 27% of diabetes is undiagnosed. If present trends continue, 1 in 3 American adults could have diabetes in 2050.

The complications of diabetes are wide ranging leading to higher rates of heart disease, stroke, adult blindness, kidney failure and kidney disease, neuropathy, hearing loss, and lower-limb amputations.

The impact of diabetes is much more pronounced among diverse elders. Highlights of the racial disparities include:

  • 10.2% of all non-Hispanic whites aged 20 years or older have diabetes (diagnosed or undiagnosed) whereas 18.7% of black adults have diabetes (diagnosed or undiagnosed).
  • American Indians: 16.1% of American Indian/Alaska Native adults have diagnosed diabetes.
  • Compared to non-Hispanic whites, the risk of diagnosed diabetes is 1.2 times higher among Asian Americans, 1.7 times higher among Hispanics, and 1.8 times higher among non-Hispanic blacks.

Read More Read More

A Video Review of Native American HIV/AIDS Issues

March 20 is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NNHAAD). NNHAAD is a national effort to raise awareness about how HIV/AIDS affects American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) and Native Hawaiian people and to promote testing.

An Overview

  • HIV infection affects AI/AN in ways that are not always apparent because of their small population size.
  • The rate of HIV infection is 30 percent higher and the rate of AIDS is 50 percent higher among AI/AN compared with white Americans, according to HHS’ Office of Minority Health.
  • Compared with other races/ethnicities, AI/AN have poorer survival rates after an HIV diagnosis.
  • AI/AN face special HIV prevention challenges, including poverty and culturally based stigma.

The following five videos give us a window into the HIV/AIDS crisis facing Native Americans.

Recognizing and Combatting Stigma: HIV & AIDS Impacting Indian Country

Advocating for Tribal HIV/AIDS Education and Legislation: A Success Story

Read More Read More

Women and HIV/AIDS: What about Older Adults, Women of Color, and Cancer?

March 10, 2014 is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD). NWGHAAD is a nationwide effort to help women and girls take action to protect themselves and their partners from HIV – through prevention, testing and treatment. The HIV epidemic is rapidly aging with 17% of new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. occurring in those 50 and older. By 2015 the CDC expects half of the HIV infected population to be over 50. Older Americans are more likely than younger Americans to be diagnosed with HIV at a later stage in the disease. This can lead to poorer diagnoses and shorter HIV to AIDS intervals. And with HIV and age, comes cancer.

Statistics – An Overview

  • One in four people living with HIV infection in the U.S. are women.
  • According to the CDC, 275,700 American women are living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Women made up 20% (9,500) of the estimated 47,500 new HIV infections in the U.S. in 2010 with most (84%) of these new infections in women being from heterosexual contact.
  • 4,014 women with an AIDS diagnosis died in 2010 and an estimated 111,940 women have died since the beginning of the epidemic.
  • Only 41% of HIV positive women are retained in HIV related medical care and only 26% of HIV positive women achieve viral suppression. Viral suppression improves survival and reduces transmission to others.

Disproportionate Affect on Women of Color

  • Black and Hispanic women continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV, compared with women of other ethnicities.
  • While only 13% of the U.S. female population, Black women represent 64% of new female HIV infections.

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Aging in America 2014: Health Reform Advocacy and Engagement in Communities of Color and LGBT Communities

Will you be joining the 3,000 engaged aging professionals and experts March 11-15, 2014 in Sunny San Diego for the ASA Aging in America 2014 conference?

Interested in exploring best practices and learning about successful advocacy and engagement tactics to better engage older adults of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elders around the Affordable Care Act and their health?

Yes? Join us Friday March 14, 2014 from 1-2:30pm for a presentation entitled Health Reform Advocacy and Engagement in Communities of Color and LGBT Communities. Leading experts from our nation’s diverse aging organizations will be on hand to share lessons learned, opportunities and challenges within their communities in accessing the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and living full and healthy lives. Speakers include:

  • Introduction from Christine Takada, President & CEO of the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA)
  • Bryan Pacheco, National Coordinator of the Diverse Elders Coalition
  • Randella Bluehouse, Executive Director of the National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA)
  • Robert Espinoza, Senior Director of Public Policy & Communications of Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
  • Jason Coates, Policy Associate of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)

As contested and contentious issues go, the American Society on Aging knows there is no hotter topic than the Affordable Care Act. As the ACA approaches its fourth anniversary, it remains a dominant policy and political issue. It is a landmark and transformational law providing first-time access to healthcare for millions, promising reforms in healthcare delivery under Medicare and promoting elder justice in America. At the Diverse Elders Coalition, we know that the ACA has the ability to create a path to better health by offering more affordable health insurance options, improving services and eliminating the usual obstacles. Join us!


Health Reform Advocacy and Engagement in Communities of Color and LGBT Communities
Friday, March 14, 2014: 01:00 PM – 02:30 PM
Room: Cortez Hill B (3rd floor, Seaport Tower)
Event Format: 90-minute Workshop
Event Category: Policy & Advocacy — Healthcare Reform
Book Code: FR345

LGBT People: Our Longing for Home, Our Right to Housing

Photo: Laurent Hamels via Getty Images

Photo: Laurent Hamels via Getty Images

There are mornings when the hour-long commute to work feels Odyssean. Today is one of those mornings. February has unfurled a litany of winter storms that have left New York City awash in slush and my Facebook feed soaked in bemoaning. As I trudge through Brooklyn and board the D train to Manhattan, I’m stirred by the resilience of people to survive winter—huddled overnight in subway trains and housing shelters, or living miles from work to afford one’s rent, a mortgage and the accumulating costs of surviving. For generations, economic injustice has been designed into the housing realities of moderate- to low-income Americans as structurally as their home floor plans; it has concentrated wealth into the privileged few and left the rest with housing instability, enduring inequality and, at its worst, homelessness. New research confirms these realities. In this context, I am privileged to afford an apartment that offers shelter through the bitter storms let loose increasingly through climate change. And I am comforted by knowing that the closest people to me constitute a home that makes the broader storms of life more bearable.

These two notions—the physical shelter afforded through adequate and affordable housing, and the sanctity of a “home” comprising loved ones we can proudly claim as our own—form the heart of the housing debate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. As with most people, we migrate from one place to the next, uprooting ourselves in search of belonging. Yet as two recent reports demonstrate, for many LGBT people—specifically LGBT people of color and elders—this quest for home routinely comes up against a housing supply that’s dilapidated, stretched thin, too expensive and far removed from the cities and neighborhoods we deserve to inhabit. We are blocked by biased housing providers unwilling to treat us on fair, negotiable terms. We crave homes through severe economic distress and pervasive inequality. It’s an unrelenting journey, begun at birth and made more fragile in later life.

The relationship between aging and housing discrimination forms the subject of a new report from the Equal Rights Center, in partnership with SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders). Read More Read More

Battle Misinformation and Stand Up for the Affordable Care Act (Black History Month)

In honor of Black History Month, the Diverse Elders Coalition is featuring stories relevant to black aging during February. A new story will be shared every Wednesday, with additional posts shared throughout the month. Be sure to visit regularly during the month of February.

By Angie Boddie, Director of Health Programs at The National Caucus and Center on Black Aged, Inc.

Black history month reminds us that African Americans come from ancestors with a legacy of overcoming obstacles far and wide. Five decades since the oppressive days of Jim Crow, African Americans have a lot to celebrate— achievements in science, business, government, medicine, arts, sports, and a two-term elected president of the United States who delivered on his promise to provide universal healthcare to all Americans.

Affordable_Care_Act_100413Originally written with the premise of putting consumers back in control of their healthcare, the Affordable Care Act required all states to assist its residents by expanding their Medicaid program’s to their residents with incomes below $16,000 ($32,000 for a family of four), with the understanding that the federal government would foot most of the bill.

Upon enactment, opponents took dead aim at the legislation. Coining the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare”, opponents tirelessly worked to repeal and replace the law. After years of heated public bickering, countless rallies, and a Supreme Court decision that finally declared the Affordable Care Act constitutional, but also gave states the option to opt out of expanding their Medicaid programs, southern states such as, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas decided to forgo Medicaid expansion, leaving thousands without healthcare coverage.
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Aging Out: Exploring Ageism and Heterosexism Among African American Lesbians and Gay Males (Black History Month)

In honor of Black History Month, the Diverse Elders Coalition is featuring stories relevant to black aging during February. A new story will be shared every Wednesday, with additional posts shared throughout the month. Be sure to visit regularly during the month of February.

People are complex, and African-American older LGBT adults are no exception. They live at the intersection of multiple identities experienced over the life span, in a culture steeped in racism, sexism, ageism, heterosexism and homophobia. African-American lesbian and gay males experience at a minimum two hostile environments: being lesbian or gay in a heterosexist society; being a person of color in a racist culture; being female in a sexist culture; and being old in a youth-worshipping culture.

Moreover, research shows that living with racism on a daily basis influences the health and well-being of African Americans, leading to major gaps in health and financial equality, higher levels of infirmity and chronic illness, even earlier death than other populations. African-American elders are likely to experience poverty at more than two times the rate of all other older Americans.

This article comes from research cited in Lift Every Voice: Treading our Path, (NGLTF Task Force, 2012) that tells the stories of lives lived and the very real problems of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender African Americans coming-of-age and how those experiences shaped their lives as they grew older. People remember being conflicted in telling family members their sexual orientation and sexual identity, fearing rejection and abandonment. A 66-year-old African-American lesbian woman described it this way:

  • “I knew I was different as a child. … But I guess I was in my early teens [before I knew the words], because you don’t know what the word is. When I was coming up, the word was bull dagger. It was so negative, so you still don’t know. You are a kid; you don’t know, there were no words for it, I hate that word. It’s just I’ve gotten older, I just, ugh. … That’s so derogatory. It’s negative.”

Many older African-American lesbian women and gay men have experienced a sense of grief and loss from being alienated within one’s own race and ethnicity because of perceived sexual identity and orientation. Often the disaffection happens early and scars last for life. Many elders speak of living in hostile environments within the African-American community. As this 63-year-old African-American man explains:

  • “I know I have an androgynous look, it was even more so when I was younger. So therefore, there was some discrimination against me by assumption rather than fact because they would look at me and because I am androgynous looking they would assume. … One of my issues being African American and looking like this was really when I came out in college in the late ’60s at the height of the Black Power Movement and I was distinctly told by a couple of Black organizations at the time, ‘we don’t want your kind here.’ ”

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