At the start of October, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) held a Capitol Hill advocacy day as part of its 2013 NHCOA National Summit. During the advocacy day, groups of seniors met with members of Congressional staff and told them about the lives of Hispanic older adults and the issues they faced in their communities. The staff members and Congressional offices were happy to meet with the older adults and gave them a warm welcome. Overall, everyone that took part in the event agreed that it is important to all people to have access to their elected officials.
As the advocacy day continued, walking from office to office in Capitol Hill became difficult for the seniors. While the people we met with were accessible, the places themselves were not. Many of the seniors taking part in the advocacy struggled with physical limitations to their mobility, and the distances between Congressional offices posed a challenge. As the population of older adults increases as a percentage of the population, the places where we live and work will have to adapt.
Older woman with a walker unable to access stairs from the Equal Rights Center’s “Visitability” Quiz
Who: Cara V. James, Director, Office of Minority Health, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Bio below)
What: Please join CMS and the Diverse Elders Coalition for a webinar that will highlight how the Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare and provide an overview of the Health Insurance Marketplace for older Americans of color.
Background: October 15, 2013 marked the start of Medicare open enrollment. It will end on December 7. During this time, all people with Medicare are encouraged to review their current health and prescription drug coverage, including any changes in costs, coverage and benefits that will take effect next year, and decide whether they would like to change their coverage.
Presenter Biography: Cara V. James is the Director of the Office of Minority Health at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Prior to joining the Office of Minority Health at CMS, Dr. James was the Director of the Disparities Policy Project and the Director of the Barbara Jordan Health Policy Scholars Program at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, where she was responsible for addressing a broad array of health and access to care issues for racial and ethnic minorities and other underserved populations, including the potential impact of the Affordable Care Act, analyses of state-level disparities in health and access to care, and disparities in access to care among individuals living in health professional shortage areas. Prior to joining the staff at Kaiser, she worked at Harvard University and The Picker Institute. Dr. James is a member of the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Roundtable on the Promotion of Health Equity and the Elimination of Health Disparities and has served on several IOM committees including the Committee on Leading Health Indicators for Healthy People 2020. She has published several peer-reviewed articles and other publications, and was a co-author for one of the background chapters for the IOM Report Unequal Treatment. Cara received her Ph.D. in Health Policy and her B.A. in Psychology from Harvard University.
Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, reunions, and celebrations with family. However, many of us have ambivalent feelings about these family interactions. Our mixed feeling can range from the joy of re-connecting to anxiety around different values and expectations that exist within the family, especially between generations. This ambivalence may be experienced every day in multigenerational families, and statistics indicate that immigrant seniors are more likely to live in multi-generational households. Contrary to the stereotypical picture of a large, tight-knit immigrant family surrounding their elders with relevance and constant caregiving support, the nature of intergenerational relationships within immigrant families is more complex. Older immigrants interviewed in the research conducted by the Temple University Intergenerational Center (the “Center”) shared their sense of isolation within their family and community due to lack of time for meaningful interactions, language and value differences, and the acculturation of younger generations.
A Vietnamese senior from Philadelphia expressed his sense of disconnect.
“In Asian culture…parents take care of children, then children take care of parents when they are old…but in America, …[your adult children are] busy spending time working, their children go to school…so these things separate the family…you have to compete with these things [and] there is no room [for elders] to teach about culture.”
The role loss and the decreasing value of elders’ wisdom in American society are major barriers to the well-being of immigrant seniors. As one Somali community leader in Minneapolis explained, “Elders as advisors….that concept is lost here.”Read More
MY IMMIGRANT MOTHER sits silently in a room the size of a small kitchen. Earlier this year, she survived multiple failures of the heart, kidneys, and limbs over the course of six weeks. She is seventy-three, uses a wheelchair, and for the first time in her life is surrounded by white people who do not speak Spanish, in the only nearby nursing home my parents can afford. In turn, my father drives through the days confronted by three omnipresent realities: hour-long daily visits with my mother, a night shift to keep him mentally and financially afloat, and a mailbox flooded with health care bills, insurance disputes and the complexity of navigating Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers. When I speak of health reform, queer rights, or racial and economic justice, he gazes at me solemnly. He survived a lifetime of racial discrimination, fought in two wars and lived through the ensuing decades with a cacophony in his psyche. At seventy-eight, nearly blind and deaf, he will hear nothing of systems and reform. More often than not, these days we sit in silence.
This silence haunts me as an advocate who works at the intersection of aging and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) rights. The aging and LGBTQ advocacy fields often propose policy solutions that are too narrow to address the complexity of how all marginalized people — including heterosexual people of color such as my parents, members of the LGBTQ community, and more — experience the process of aging. We need social transformations that address the intersecting forms of oppression that older people face — and that can make sense of the chaos and silence that shroud my parents. This has become especially clear to me through my work as the director of a national policy program devoted to improving the health and well-being of LGBTQ older people.
A closer look at the lives of aging LGBTQ people reveals how deeply identity politics and class politics are entangled. Here, an older protester rallies for marriage equality in Pasadena, California.
For the full essay, which originally appeared in Tikkun Magazine click here
The harms inflicted by discrimination reveal themselves in our bodies as we age — as people of color, as poor and low-income people, and as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. The symptoms manifest as higher rates of high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, depression, social isolation and more. In medical charts throughout the country, our bodies record what it means to survive a life shaped by perpetual poverty, higher concentrations in low-wage jobs with no health insurance, thin retirement options and inadequate protections in the workplace. They depict our fractured relationships to health care — from cultural and linguistic barriers to overt bias and discrimination from health and aging providers, to a long-held, hard-earned distrust of medical staff internalized through years of differential treatment.
Oct. 1 aims to begin reversing these conditions. The health insurance marketplace established through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers opportunities to shop for state health insurance plans and begins improving coverage for the 47 million uninsured people in this country. Millions of people work in jobs with no health coverage, cannot afford insurance on their own and fall through gaps in public support that leave them uninsured or underinsured. Without insurance, people accrue unmanageable debt, delay health care and in turn watch their health worsen over time — a trajectory most often experienced by people of color, LGBT people and low-income people. These hardships intensify for older people who must also contend with age-related bias in the workplace and the challenges of paying for out-of-pocket expenses with meager incomes. An all-inclusive vision of health reform must incorporate the realities of aging as early as age 50. Read More
The first National Indian Conference on Aging was sponsored by the National Tribal Chairman’s Association (NTCA) in Phoenix, Arizona on June 15-17, 1976. Close to 1,500 American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people representing 171 tribes came together to speak of their needs and present recommendations for action to improve the quality of their lives. The meeting was coordinated by the National Tribal Chairman’s Association and led by President Wendell Chino.
First members of the National Indian Council on Aging
Then: Creation of NICOA
In his address to the conference attendees Mr. Chino spoke at length about the history of contributions the American Indian/Alaska Native elders have given to this great country. He consistently reminded American Indian/Alaska Native and the US Congressional leaders that American Indians/Alaska Natives have a unique status as they are specifically mentioned in the US constitution. Robert J. Miller author of Native America, Discovered and Conquered: Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, and Manifest Destiny, explains the following:
American Indian tribes have played a major role in the development and history of the United States and have engaged in official, diplomatic governmental relations with other sovereign governments from the first moment Europeans stepped foot on this continent. Indian tribes have been a part of the day to day political life of the United States and continue to have an important role in American life today. Tribes continue to have a government to government relationship with the United States and they continue to be sovereign governments with primary control and jurisdiction over their citizens and their territories. It is no surprise, then, that the relationship between Indian people, tribal governments and the United States is addressed in the United States Constitution.Read More
September 18 marks the annual National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, a day to shine a spotlight on HIV/AIDS and its impact on the aging body. The Diverse Elders Coalition and our member organizations know well that this disease greatly affects our nation’s older people. In fact, adults 50 years of age and older make up the fastest growing population with HIV, and by 2015, more than half of Americans living with HIV/AIDS will be over 50.
While individuals with HIV/AIDS are living longer lives, older adults have more than three other (usually chronic) health conditions in addition to HIV versus their age peers without HIV. As a result, they have a host of health and services needs that neither HIV nor aging services providers are fully prepared to meet. Yet older adults have rarely been targeted in HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness campaigns. As a result, many do not realize that their behaviors can put them at risk for HIV infection. Additionally, health care providers may mistakenly assume that older patients are no longer engaged in high risk behaviors, and therefore do no initiate conversation about the importance of using protection and getting tested regularly.
This is why representatives from our member organizations SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders) and NHCOA (National Hispanic Council on Aging) are at Capitol Hill today for a briefing, reception and hearing to highlight the needs and challenges of older adults with and at risk for HIV. You can follow what happened and get live updates by following @nhcoa and @sageusa on Twitter. Read More
Present and former NAPCA staff members (L to R) Cora McDonnell, Danny Principe, & Wah Kwong.
Grandparents living in multi-generational households often face numerous challenges. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2.7 million grandparents are responsible for the basic needs of one or more grandchildren under the age of 18. Of these, 594,000 grandparents have incomes below the Federal Poverty Level. Over 500,000 grandparents are foreign-born, and over 400,000 do not speak English at home and have limited English proficiency. Read More
Map of people that speak Spanish at home. Source: Badger, Emily, “Where 60 Million People in the U.S. Don’t Speak English at Home,” The Atlantic Cities
According to the Census Bureau, about 20% of people speak a language other than English at home. That’s 1 in 5 people! And over the years, this number has only grown. The Census Bureau has developed a map that shows in which parts of the country these people live. What the map shows is that there are people whose preferred language is not English in all but the most sparsely populated parts of the country. Language access is a civil right, and these rights are reflected in federal law. It is also becoming more common to see instructions on packages, advertisements, and other messages translated into languages other than English, as well. When it comes to language access, the policies of the United States promote inclusion.
Despite these efforts at inclusion, accessing many government programs poses unique challenges for older adults with limited English speaking ability. Programs like Medicare Part D (the prescription medication program) and the Affordable Care Act’s health exchanges rely on consumers to choose the plans that will balance value and health coverage. However, there are multiplestudies from the implementation of Medicare Part D that state consumers do not choose the most economically efficient options. Most people, particularly those who prefer to speak in a language other than English, could benefit from learning more about their health care options. Read More
Today’s post is from Robert Espinoza, Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications at SAGE. Follow him on Twitter.
In December 2010, I took part in a first-time meeting of national aging organizations working with older people of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elders.
Over time, this group would form a coalition focused on federal policy reform—the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC)—but what resonated in those initial meetings was a belief that we needed to sort through our individual interests, find multiple points of commonality, and employ a joint advocacy agenda that would profoundly change older people for generations to come.
We knew that a coalition approach was tactically smart; it leveraged our organizational resources and challenged the single-issue orthodoxy that too often shapes the dominant policy rhetoric. This approach also acknowledged our overlapping missions, growing demographics (and societal burdens), and multiple identities. We recognized that our communities shared many of the same political opponents and allies. And our aspirations for joy throughout the lifespan were in many ways similar. We believed that we could both unify and transcend our identity-based politics. Read More
StoryCorps, the national interview project affiliated with the Library of Congress and NPR, is looking for stories about elders and healthcare.
Two StoryCorps participants after an interview.
StoryCorps producers are hoping to speak with: Elders who are living with multiple chronic conditions who can talk about the complications of coordinating care (or family members/caregivers who can talk about the complications of caring for an elder in that situation). These stories are being recorded in partnership with Atlantic Philanthropies (AP). AP supports the work of both StoryCorps and the Diverse Elders Coalition. One of the stories will later be showcased on the Atlantic website to help bring attention to elders and their healthcare experiences.
There was a time in my life, around 11 years old, when I often skipped school because I was being bullied and harassed. It was obvious to my classmates that I was “different” and they targeted me because of it. At lunch, there was a boys table and a girls table, but I was relegated to the “other” table.
I hated waking up for school. Sometimes I would put my head over the toaster to create a “fever” and ask my mother if I could stay home. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. Those days that it didn’t, I would put on my uniform, grab my lunch and deliberately slam the front door to our apartment. The loud noise signified to my parents that I was on my way to school.
What I really did was tip toe back to my bedroom and hide in the closet. Inside, I would carefully listen for my family to leave for the day. Once they were gone, I would breathe a huge sigh of relief as it meant I could turn on the TV and relax—I was free from my bullies!
One Monday, the school administration called my mother to inquire why I hadn’t been attending. It just so happened my father was home that day and my mother demanded that he check to see if I was there. As he called my name, my heart was pounding and I put my hand over my mouth to hide my breath as I hid in the closet. Read More
We are thrilled that this day has finally come. As we previously promised, in addition to our regular contributing bloggers, we will have exciting guest bloggers. We will also display our content in a variety of different ways (e.g., pictures, videos, interviews, Top 5 columns, etc.) And much more! Have a suggestion? Contact us.
The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) was founded in 2010, and in July 2012 we launched our official website, which also serves as a news and commentary blog on the social, political and economic issues affecting the growing yet vulnerable demographic of elders who are Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT).In the last eight months, we have put out numerous posts on the issues that affect our communities and the creative ideas and best practices to address them. In the summer of 2012, we also released Securing Our Future: Advancing Economic Security for Diverse Elders, a resource that describes the issues facing elders of color and LGBT elders, who together will represent a majority of older adults in the United States by 2050.
In this time, we have received some wonderful comments on our work, as well as helpful feedback from our readers (all of you) on how to improve the site to better meet your needs—and we listened to you. Members of the Diverse Elders Coalition came together and crafted an exciting plan for moving forward by implementing many of your ideas, which you’ll see starting with our blog re-launch on March 18. Here are some of the improvements to look forward to:
In addition to our regular contributing bloggers, we have some exciting guest bloggers scheduled!
Content displayed in a variety of ways (e.g., pictures, videos, interviews, Top 5 columns, etc.)
More news and original content from coalition members
As we look forward to March 18, please like us (and tell a friend!) on Facebook to stay updated on the events surrounding the launch and the latest news affecting diverse elders. If you have any questions about DEC or would like to submit an idea for a blog post, please contact us.
Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) is working on our next strategic plan to help guide the organization for the next few years, and we need your help. SAGE has a long history of listening to the many audiences we work with, and we would like to hear your thoughts on our work on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Read More