HIV, Aging and LGBT people: A Metamorphosis

On April 3, 2008, my longtime friend Don (last name withheld) tested positive for HIV, the same day as his mother’s 56th birthday. He remembers the day vividly. “I had given blood to my doctor and a couple weeks later, I still hadn’t received a call. I called my doctor’s office and they said, ‘There’s an anomaly with your blood.’ I immediately freaked out and thought, ‘God, this is it.'” Don took the last appointment of the day and a few hours later received his diagnosis, along with a few referrals. He went home “to pull myself together, call my mom and wish her a happy birthday.” He wouldn’t share his HIV status with his mother for several years.

“It stopped me dead in my tracks,” he says of that day. “And even though having an HIV diagnosis isn’t the same as it was 15 or 20 years ago, I immediately saw the end. I had dreams where I would see this road that said: ‘dead end.'”

At 42, Don represents a notable demographic segment of the U.S. population living with HIV/AIDS. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the highest rates of HIV prevalence, by age group, are among people ages 45-49 and ages 40-45—20% and 16%, respectively. As these people in their 40s and their older peers age, spurred in large part by medical advances, people age 50 and older will make up roughly 70 percent of Americans with HIV by the year 2020.

Yet aging with HIV can be especially difficult. Older adults with HIV report high levels of isolation, yet few community spaces embrace their full identities as older people, people with HIV and, in most cases, given the epidemic’s prevalence, LGBT and people of color. Additionally, medical research has found multiple health concerns related to aging with HIV—and the psychological dimensions of living with HIV, or a new diagnosis, can spur its own storms. Without a large-scale, dedicated response, the “younger” end of this older adult spectrum, including Don, will join their older peers over the next decade in entering an aging system unprepared to meet their unique needs, despite their overwhelming numbers.

*****

Don was born in 1972 in Maple Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland he describes as comprised largely of Polish and Italian people (similar to his family), and one that depleted in size over the decades as the economy worsened. He recalls a mixed childhood that included a family dynamic in which tough issues were never discussed openly and only worsened as he grew older. “We laughed and we loved each other, but there was the divorce and the fighting and the aggression that overshadowed all of it.”

Don’s first memory of HIV is from 1985, when screen legend Rock Hudson publicly disclosed he had AIDS. Don remembers his family reacting to—though not discussing—the controversy that erupted regarding a kiss Hudson had shared with his “Dynasty” co-star Linda Evans on an episode a year prior. “I remember just hearing ‘AIDS’ and they would show pictures of him, and they would show pictures of people with lesions and looking sickly. Those were the first images that were infused into my brain.”

AIDS raged through the 1980s—inciting more than 100,000 cases by the end of 1989, according to the CDC—yet Don doesn’t recall any mentions of the topic until his freshman year in college in 1990. “During student orientation, they give you information about all of the available resources on campus, and they talk about the health center, and if you get an STD, and how to get an HIV test. ‘An HIV test?’ I thought. That was the first time it registered as something that people needed to pay attention to.”

As Don matured into his gay identity throughout his 20s, he still didn’t feel at risk for HIV. “I felt like, well, I’ll just pick the right guy who looks like he’s ‘clean.’ It was a beautiful, blissful denial and ignorance that allowed me to behave like I did and not see a connection between my behaviors and the consequence of what could have been.” In fact, after his first handful of HIV tests yielded negative results, he admits it gave him license to continue having unprotected sex for a few years longer, believing himself immune from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Years later, he would seroconvert and find solace in disclosing his HIV status to a select network of friends. “When you tell people, when we come out, we’re telling people not just to share information, but it’s also to better accept ourselves.” He would reconcile his relationship with his estranged biological father. He strengthened ties with his sister and brother, the two remaining next of kin after a series of untimely family deaths over the course of a decade. And for two years, he co-facilitated an HIV support group for a local nonprofit that gave him a sense of purpose and exposed him to a multitude of motivational stories. He soon saw himself as “one little story among a greater picture.” He realized then, “Okay, we’re all in this together and we’ll figure it out.”

*****

But are we united on this issue—and will we figure it out? My experience in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) rights shows that few organizations prioritize HIV/AIDS, an omission that’s more glaring in the aging and long-term field.  More broadly, this topic seems virtually absent in the media, in government, and across progressive activist circles and community spaces. Governments rarely support this population, and too few aging and health providers are versed in the clinical and social support needs of people aging with HIV.

At SAGE, we frequently encounter older people with HIV who are severely isolated, in poor health and without proper financial means. Some have lived with HIV for years; others have been recently diagnosed, often with both HIV and AIDS; and many probably don’t know they have HIV. Recently I asked a case manager who runs an HIV support group in New York City about the group’s willingness to discuss end-of-life planning and set in place the necessary documents. He replied that people who have long fought to survive avoid discussing death for fear of jinxing their good luck. And what do we make of older people who tested positive in the 1980s and early 1990s, assumed they would pass away, spent their savings and then miraculously survived—impoverished and jarred by their newfound survival?

A May 2014 policy report offers large-scale recommendations. Federal agencies should fund HIV prevention programs that are aimed at older people who might require unique messaging rooted in generational differences. The CDC should encourage HIV testing among people older than 65 and promote their overall testing guidelines among all health providers. All states should adopt Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act to ensure that more low-income people can access proper care—a disparity that disproportionately affects people of color largely concentrated in states that have opted out of Medicaid expansion. Federal agencies should fund more research on what it means to age with HIV, especially among LGBT people and people of color, the hardest hit groups. And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should issue treatment guidelines for the clinical care of older people with HIV, many of whom have increased comorbidities as early as age 50.

Six years after his diagnosis, Don grapples with remaining optimistic in a time of grief. “I’m probably healthier than I have ever been, yet I’m continually reevaluating my life and purpose, especially with the death of my family. You can’t help but think, ‘What’s my fate?” He nevertheless sees the fact that he was diagnosed on his mother’s birthday (who passed away from cancer in December 2013) as symbolic motivation. “It’s her birthday. But it also became a different sort of birth process for me because it was me seeing my life and myself in a new way for the first time.”

Don now seeks to create a simple life with clear priorities, minimize his material belongings, and focus his time on people who matter, such as his partner of three years. And when he ponders how he wants to live his later years, he replies: “Enjoying the day. Not worrying about what’s going to happen five or 10 years from now, or a year from now. I want to enjoy this moment and take it all in for what it is.”

*****

I remember the day Don shared his HIV status with me. He brought me into his kitchen and told me in the clearest of terms, a mix of bluntness and vulnerability in his tone—everything I know about his personality. I measured my reaction, asked questions and downplayed the severity and stigma, a response I would want in a reverse scenario. We both agreed HIV was a different illness than what we read and witnessed from the 1980s and 1990s. We had a dinner party to attend that evening and before we left the house, I escaped to his upstairs bathroom, shut the door and wept. Outside, the streets of downtown Denver were lined with delegates and supporters for the 2008 Democratic convention, celebrating the possibility of a new era. As we drove through this tide of hopefulness, I sat still next to my rattled friend. I thought about life’s inevitabilities, what awaits and changes us, and how often we as LGBTQ people have had to defend our bodies from the forces that routinely assault us. A new era, yes. A different narrative, no.

Is this the dilemma that rests at the heart of sexual liberation for LGBTQ people? We crave fulfilling sexual lives, autonomy over our bodies, new norms, and the freedom to express ourselves as we see fit, without judgment, discrimination or criminalization. Yet we still encounter consequences, and our culture seems ill-prepared to deal with the contradictions that come with the fluidity and complexity of identity, desire and choice. And we know too well that a serious illness can be transformative or debilitating, depending on one’s resources and level of support. Life can seem so pressed and so short.

We have also been trained to critique and reform the same health care system that we must ultimately rely on. Many of us are too well-read and historically astute to blindly trust the industries and institutions that profess to protect us. Medications are conceived in laboratories governed as much by profit as by medical need. Government and private funds to nonprofits come with illogical restraints, ideological assumptions and unrealistic deliverables. So how do we live healthy, sexually liberated lives as queer people in the context of cultural repression and widespread economic exploitation? Does this explain the apathy, even aggression, against new PrEP treatment that could prevent scores of HIV infections if more people were on it? We remain rightfully dubious about the lines between altruism and marketing, prevention and “poison,” our health and their profit.

I’m inspired that Don sees the date of his diagnosis as a form of re-birth; it’s both poetic and precise. Yet Don’s inspiring metamorphosis, strength-based outlook and access to both medications and social support are not evenly shared among older people. What we need are solutions that draw from the hardship of people who struggle with the daily coping of HIV/AIDS, physically and financially, as well as from people such as Don who have survived HIV, grown wiser and in many ways, healthier.

It might be that HIV and aging, when seen as distinct concepts, are two manifestations of the same notion; your life becomes either more meaningful or more precarious depending on your state of mind and what surrounds you. Or perhaps the pervasiveness of death clarifies our identities; we anticipate our end as a means of reformulating our old selves. When I ask Don about the legacy he’d like to leave when he passes, he replies, “I want people to know that HIV influenced me because it made me look at life in a totally different way. It took me out of myself temporarily in order to get to know myself all over again.”

Follow Robert Espinoza on Twitter: www.twitter.com/EspinozaNotes

This article by Robert Espinoza originally appeared in the Huffingtonpost.com Gay Voices blog.

Robert Espinoza is Senior Director for Public Policy and Communications at Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

The Ins and Outs of LGBT Caregiving

We, (those of us older than 50) are now finding out what Bette Davis knew, that “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” Those of us who are also lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) may have additional challenges including homophobia and heteronormativity, which can send us running back to the very closets we fought so hard to leave, according to Stein and colleagues in a 2010 article in the Journal of Gerontology Social Work.

Recently I did a study with African-American lesbians and gay males. All study participants experienced a sense of alienation, in the African-American and majority-LGBT communities, described consistently as “a hurt that lasts a long time.” They also talked of a sense of not being wanted in the mainstream population. More than half of the participants had been called names, whispered about or harassed because of being perceived as gay or lesbian. Not surprisingly, a majority of participants were not out to their family, at work, in church or to neighbors. Some revealed that they always “pass” as heterosexuals in the majority environment. This fear of being harassed or discriminated against, the fear of being outed and the lack of LGBT-welcoming photos and brochures in care environments, as well as on websites or in social media, translates into elders trying to stay “safe,” according to Pope et al. in a 2007 article in Adultspan Journal.

So what happens when these closeted elders need to access healthcare and other services, and need the support of family members, including adult children? It remains a difficult situation. Research has shown that a majority of LGBT elders’ age without a partner, compared to less than 40 percent of the overall older adult population aging without a partner, and 90 percent of LGBT elders have no children, compared to 20 percent of the overall older adult population being childless. Furthermore, LGBT elders with children are often estranged from or not out to those children. There is a poignant scene in the film Gen Silent where an older transgender woman needs her son’s support. He has been estranged from her for years. He finally and briefly comes into her life, but is unable to accept his now-female parent as anyone but “Dad.”

Remarkably, adult children who accept and care for their elder LGBT parents seem to be aware of the perceived need for their parents to be closeted. In a qualitative study in 2007 of caregivers of gay and lesbian older adults, one heterosexual adult son observed, “My dad’s generation was more conservative, more guarded… . So they are [more] reluctant to accept help… . My dad wouldn’t want to be stigmatized as a gay.”

Another adult child, a gay son, said, “They [staff in nursing homes or assisted living facilities] told me that it would be better to hide this aspect … the identity of my father.”

Upon further questioning, these adult children articulated that they often faced overt and covert discrimination when accessing services while caring for their elder parents. The discrimination seemed to be based on the perception of the elder being gay or lesbian. In some cases, caregivers were reluctant to leave parents in institutions because of the increased vulnerability of being old and LGBT. Adult children caring for LGBT parents felt the combined perceived or actual oppressions of heterosexism and ageism directed toward their parents.

Clearly, institutions that provide resources and respite to care recipients and caregivers need training in cultural competency to create positive social environments for the closeted LGBT elder and their adult children. Moreover, additional research is required to investigate the outcomes of caregiving among this heretofore invisible group.

 

Dr. Imani Woody is the principal of IWF Consulting, LLC, president and CEO of Mary’s House for Older Adults, Inc. and the SAGE Metro DC representative to SAGENet – SAGE’s network of local affiliates around the country – that work to reduce isolation, improve financial security and enhance quality of life for LGBT older adults. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

This article by Dr. Imani Woody originally appeared on the American Society on Aging’s blog. Read it here.

Other articles in this series from the editorial committee of ASA’s LGBT Aging Issues Network (LAIN)

Recognizing and caring for our grandparents (National Grandparents Day) with a view towards the 2015 White House Conference on Aging

Sunday, September 7, 2014 is National Grandparents Day. What a great opportunity to recognize those that have given so much love and support! Grandparents Day was established as a national holiday in 1978 as a way to recognize and value the contributions of our nation’s seniors. Our elders have often done much to support our families in economic, emotional and spiritual ways and yet these contributions are often overlooked and unappreciated.

In the years since the establishment of National Grandparents Day, there has been a grandparents boom with the numbers rising from 40 million in 1980 to 65 million in 2011 and an estimated 80 million in 2020. This “Elder Boom” is not a crisis but a blessing. We’re living longer and have the opportunity to spend more time together. The question is how do we live as we age?

Our friends at Caring Across Generations have run a summer long campaign “ThrowbackSummer” to celebrate the culture, memories and relationships that unite us across generations. Their goal is to build a national movement to transform the way we care in this country. And that includes caring for our elders.

Right now, our country has no comprehensive plan to care for our aging parents and grandparents. More broadly, seven in ten of us will need home care at some point in our lives, due to disability or the simple natural process of getting older. And the vast majority of us – 90% – would prefer to stay at home instead of being placed in a facility. But for too many of us, home care is not an option.

Grandparents Day is the perfect time to discuss issues such as long-term care. The process of aging, or losing mobility due to disability, can also be scary and challenging for many people – and therefore something that most people want to avoid thinking about. Our grandparents have done so much for us. SEARAC’s Bao Lor learned about love and courage and hard work from her grandpa, a refugee from Laos. However some grandparents can face a wide range of challenges when performing primary childcare for their grandchildren. Now it is time to consider what we can and should do for them so that they can age with dignity and independence.

Preparations have begun for the 2015 White House Conference on Aging (WHCOA). Occurring every ten years, the WHCOA is an opportunity to look ahead to the issues that will help shape the landscape for older Americans (our grandparents) for the next decade. In late July, Cecilia Munoz, an Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council, outlined possible themes for next year’s WHCOA:

  • Retirement security – Financial security in retirement provides essential peace of mind for older Americans
  • Long-term services and supports – Older Americans prefer to remain independent in the community as they age but need supports such as a caregiving network and well-supported workforce
  • Healthy aging – As medical advances progress, the opportunities for older Americans to maintain their health and vitality should progress as well
  • Protection – Seniors, particularly the oldest, can be vulnerable to financial exploitation, abuse and neglect. Protect seniors from those seeking to take advantage of them

In honor of National Grandparents Day, the Diverse Elders Coalition recognizes and appreciates the many and varied contributions of our nation’s seniors. In the year ahead, we plan to ensure the voices and needs of our diverse communities are fully represented in the 2015 White House Conference on Aging.

Thank You Grandparents!

Photo: courtesy Caring Across Generations

Photo: courtesy Caring Across Generations

Photo: courtesy Caring Across Generations

Photo: courtesy Caring Across Generations

Photo: courtesy Caring Across Generations

Photo: courtesy Caring Across Generations

Photo: courtesy NHCOA

Photo: courtesy NHCOA

Patrick Aitcheson is the Interim National Coordinator for the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC). The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Rethinking the Term “Senior Citizen”

Today is National Senior Citizen’s Day, which is a great opportunity to look at the role age and aging play in all of our lives. Many people are familiar with terms like racism or sexism—but here at SAGE we spend a lot of time thinking about ageism. Ageism is the act of stereotyping and forming prejudices about people or groups based on their age. It can take many forms, from assuming that all teenagers are irresponsible to passing over an older adult’s job application because of their age.

Senior Citizens blog post picOne important way that we combat these different ‘-isms’ is to learn how to speak to others with respect and understanding. The language we use in our everyday lives has a tremendous impact, not only on our personal relationships, but on the national conversation around diversity and inclusion. For example, when I’m conducting our LGBT cultural competency trainings, I have all the participants say ‘LGBT’ out loud four or five times. After this activity people that have never even said the word LGBT can say it smoothly and without stumbling over the letters, which is an important way to demonstrate that you’re an ally to the LGBT community!

Given the power of language, today is a great time to explain why SAGE chooses not to use the term “senior citizen” in our work. Calling someone a senior citizen places them into a category simply based on their age. Along with this category come many other assumptions about what older adults can and cannot do.

‘Senior citizen’ is just one of a few terms used to describe older adults that are increasingly rejected. A 2012 article in the New York Times discussed this shift in language, noting that other terms like ‘elderly’ are also falling out of favor.

Whatever the label, anytime you see someone first and foremost as a member of a group, it makes it more difficult to see that person in all of their uniqueness. At SAGE we strive to see everyone as individuals with their own strengths and weaknesses, not just as members of a certain generation. Removing ageist assumptions or language for our collective vocabulary is an important part of doing our work, and that’s why we don’t call our constituents senior citizens.

There may be times when it’s very important to talk about older people as a group, and in those moments we prefer the term ‘older adults’. It allows us to speak to a set of shared experiences, without bringing along a lot of the baggage and stereotypes associated with ‘senior citizens’.

After all, as one style guide points out, we don’t refer to people under age 50 as ‘junior citizens,’ so why create a special category just for older people?

What term do you use to describe yourself? Which terms do you love, and which do you dislike? Let us know in the comments!

Posted by Tim Johnston, PhD. Tim is Manager of Education and Training for Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders’ National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

This post originally appeared on the SAGE Blog.

Vietnamese Poetry: Reflections on the sweetness and bitterness of growing older

By Ngô Văn Diệm

Ngô Văn Diệm came to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1981. In these poems, Mr. Ngô reflects beautifully on the sweetness and bitterness of growing older, and the ephemeral qualities of memory and of life itself.

Mr. Ngô is also the father of Ivy Ngo, a former SEARAC aging policy associate who was instrumental in developing the early work of the Diverse Elders Coalition. Today, Ivy continues her path as an aging advocate at the Columbia School of Social Work. Ivy translated her father’s poems into English. Read More

LGBT seniors face AIDS, limited housing options, isolation, discrimination and more

This seven part series by Matthew S. Bajko (m.bajko@ebar.com) originally appeared in the Bay Area Reporter/New America Media. Matthew explores a range of issues facing LGBT elders including aging with AIDS, isolation, limited housing options, discrimination on many fronts and a lifetime of struggle.

Trauma of AIDS Epidemic Impacts Aging Survivors

SAN FRANCISCO–The nightmares terrorized San Francisco resident Tez Anderson for years. He would dream he was buried deep underground and wake in the middle of the night feeling panicked.

Photo: Author and AIDS activist Sean Strub, left, with Let’s Kick ASS (AIDS Survivor Syndrome) co-founder Tez Anderson. (Rick Gerharter/Bay Area Reporter)

Photo: Author and AIDS activist Sean Strub, left, with Let’s Kick ASS (AIDS Survivor Syndrome) co-founder Tez Anderson. (Rick Gerharter/Bay Area Reporter)

“It felt like I was in a lot of danger. It was not so much about death, it was more that I was in peril,” recalled Anderson, who is 55. Read More

Aging and HIV: New Insights, New Recommendations

by Kira Garcia

In the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, most people diagnosed faced death within a few years, if not sooner. Thirty years on, much has changed; HIV has become a more manageable chronic illness and many people are aging with the disease.

The proof is in these startling statistics: it’s predicted that 50 percent of people with HIV in the U.S. will be age 50+ by 2015—and by 2020, more than 70 percent of Americans with HIV are expected to 50+.

With that in mind, SAGE, the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) and ACRIA (AIDS Community Research Initiative of America) have created a report outlining eight recommendations to address the needs of a growing demographic of older adults with HIV, many of whom are LGBT and people of color. The full report, Eight Policy Recommendations for Improving the Health & Wellness of Older Adults with HIV, can be found online here. Read More

AGING INTO POVERTY: Economic Insecurity among Older Adults of Color & LGBT Elders

ATT00001

Join us for a Webinar on May 7

images

Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/203341944

By most economic measures older adults of color and LGBT elders are aging into poverty. Recent research highlights that over 90% of older African American and Latino elders are financially vulnerable and will be unable to support themselves over the course of their lifetime. Elders of color report greater difficulty in affording necessities, such as food, health care, and housing, than the general population. Read More

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 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. 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. 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 diverseelders.org 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. 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 Read More

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. Read More

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 diverseelders.org 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. Read More

On the Shoulders of our Black Elders: Powerful Images from our Past (Black History Month: Civil Rights in America)

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 diverseelders.org regularly during the month of February.

February is Black History Month, also commonly known as African-American History Month—a time for us all to reflect on and remember the important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. The theme for this year’s Black History Month is “Civil Rights in America.”

It’s no secret that when the Civil Rights Movement, the fight against racial segregation and discrimination in the U.S., reached its height during the turbulent 1960s, it was one of our country’s most difficult times. Many of today’s black elders risked their lives and courageously led the movement to fight against racial inequality and bestow upon us the many freedoms we enjoy today. We at the Diverse Elders Coalition publicly thank our black elders and encourage you to take a moment to share this post and thank the black elders in your life. Read More

Focus turns to aging with AIDS

This article by Matthew S. Bajko (m.bajko@ebar.com) originally appeared in the Bay Area Reporter

Estimated percentage of the adult population (15 years and older) living with HIV which is aged 50 years or over, by region, by 2012. (Source UN.org)

Estimated percentage of the adult population (15 years and older) living with HIV which is aged 50 years or over, by region, by 2012. (Source UN.org)

As the global AIDS epidemic continues to age, greater focus is being paid to older adults living with HIV.

AIDS advocates are calling on service providers and health departments to tailor HIV prevention services, including HIV testing, to meet the needs of people aged 50 and above. And new guidelines for doctors with patients who have HIV are being released that highlight the need to focus on preventive care. Read More

As Parents Age, Asian-Americans Struggle to Obey a Cultural Code

This article by Tanzina Vega originally appeared in the New York Times

Savan Mok, a home health aide, assisting Oun Oy, 90, right, who had a stroke in 2012. Ms. Oy is from Cambodia and lives in Jenkintown, Pa., with her son and his wife, at rear. Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times

Savan Mok, a home health aide, assisting Oun Oy, 90, right, who had a stroke in 2012. Ms. Oy is from Cambodia and lives in Jenkintown, Pa., with her son and his wife, at rear. Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times

SOUDERTON, Pa. — Two thick blankets wrapped in a cloth tie lay near a pillow on the red leather sofa in Phuong Lu’s living room. Doanh Nguyen, Ms. Lu’s 81-year-old mother, had prepared the blankets for a trip she wanted to take. “She’s ready to go to Vietnam,” Ms. Lu said.

But Ms. Nguyen would not be leaving. The doors were locked from the inside to prevent her from going anywhere — not into the snow that had coated the ground that day outside Ms. Lu’s suburban Philadelphia home, and certainly not to her home country, Vietnam. Read More

Fighting the Good Fight Against Isolation

As we advance in life it becomes more and more difficult, but in fighting the difficulties the inmost strength of the heart is developed. Vincent van Gogh

W., 66, a former journalist and man about town, entered the meeting on LGBT issues a little late and his gait was slower than usual. When the meeting ended, he asked for a ride to the subway. As we rode, he talked about why he was late: not knowing the bus routes for this part of the city, the bus being late and the neighborhood being less than desirable. He hadn’t been feeling well and almost didn’t come to the meeting. It occurred to me that this African American elder continues to “fight the good fight” to beat the isolation that can plague us as we age and attended the meeting anyway.

Isolation is one of the great robbers of an enriched quality of life for older adults across the spectrum of race/ethnicity, class, religion, national origin, familial status, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Self-imposed isolation related to aging can include an unwillingness or inability to drive, limited transportation options, chronic ailments and disabilities, lack of events for their peer group, the lack of compatriots and a youth oriented culture. Read More

Don’t Be Left Behind: Accessibility and Mobility Challenges in an Aging Society

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 women with a walker unable to access stairs from the Equal Rights Center’s “Visitability” Quiz

Older woman with a walker unable to access stairs from the Equal Rights Center’s “Visitability” Quiz

Read More

Webinar. Dec. 5: The Affordable Care Act and Medicare

cms

When: Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 2:00pm ET

Where: Please register early for the event.

Webinar link:  https://12-5acaandmedicare.eventbrite.com  

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.

Key resources to learn more: Medicare.gov and HealthCare.gov/CuidadodeSalud.gov

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.

Sharing Stories, Leaving Legacies: How Intergenerational Programs Empower Diverse Elders

By Hitomi Yoshida, Research Associate, Temple University Intergenerational Center

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

Our Issues Entwine: LGBTQ Aging and Economic Justice

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.

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

Open Letter to Health Reform Advocates: Pay Attention to Discrimination

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.

Our bodies confirm vividly the geographic dimensions of structural inequality, which can predict long-term health as early as childhood, based largely on where a person is born. We inhale the poison of inequality throughout our lives, and it inflames in our later years as a dismal diagnosis, a medical crisis or a preventable death. Yes, severe illness will surprise many of us at some point in our lives, and death is indiscriminate, but as empirical fact, poor health affects certain demographics disproportionately at earlier and higher rates, often the same people with no health coverage to manage the repercussions.

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

National Indian Council on Aging: Then (Creation of NICOA) and Now (The Affordable Care Act – ACA)

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

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

National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

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

National Grandparents Day – Grandparents Contributing More Despite Numerous Challenges

Since 1978, when the first Sunday following Labor Day was designated “National Grandparents Day“, the number of grandparents in the U.S. has been growing from 40 million (1980) to 65 million (2011) to an estimated 80 million (2020). Over time the roles of grandparents, especially those among diverse elder populations, have also shifted. Grandparents are now providing important caregiving support, raising our children, and are the backbone of multi-generational families.

Present and former NAPCA staff members (L to R) Cora McDonnell, Danny Principe, and Wah Kwong.

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

Language, Idioma, 語, ភាសា: Speaking limited English can pose unique challenges for older people

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

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 multiple studies 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

The Coalition that Changed the Aging Narrative

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

CALL FOR STORIES: Elders, healthcare and chronic conditions

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.

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.

kathrina-proscia

Inside StoryCorps interview booth.

Read More

A Gay Son and His Dad: “Why I am an Aging Advocate”

How my dad supported his gay son

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

The Re-launch is here!

Two weeks ago, we announced that we would be re-launching the Diverse Elders Coalition Blog.  Read here to find out 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.

You can bookmark this page or subscribe to our RSS feed to stay updated. Check back on Wednesday to read our latest post, courtesy of National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA). Until then, enjoy some highlights from the blog’s history:

1) Watch Our Story

2) The Unique Needs of Asian American and Pacific Islander Elders

3) 10 Considerations for Working with the Diversity of Older LGBT Latinos

We are Re-launching On March 18!

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
  • And more!

 

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.

See you on the 18th!

To learn more about DEC members, click here.

SAGE Wants to Hear from more Communities of Color

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

What the Fiscal Cliff Means for Elder Programs

BY DOUA THOR, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUTHEAST ASIA RESOURCE ACTION CENTER (SEARAC)

Everywhere you turn these days, it seems that you can’t get away from talk of the “fiscal cliff.” As advocates for elders, we too, are concerned with the impending austerity measures and how, if triggered, they will impact funding for programs for our elder generations.

There’s no getting around the fact that if sequestration is allowed to go into effect in January, the resulting non-defense discretionary cuts in FY 2013 will put programs at risk that currently maintain older adults’ independence, health, and well-being. The Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO), of which SEARAC is a member, has put together a very helpful issue brief on how sequestration would hurt programs that are authorized by the Older Americans Act (OAA). By the numbers, these are some highlights of how the cuts would affect elder programs (at 8 percent sequestration): Read More

Leaves That Pay

As policy makers gather to discuss the impending fiscal cliff, they will consider many ways to reduce budget deficits and the national debt. This discussion includes the future of health care. Rather than cutting benefits, one of the best ways to lower health care costs is to invest in workers’ health through policies that allow them to take paid time off in event of an illness or to look after a loved one who is sick.

That is why NHCOA has been working across states to raise awareness and empower Latino workers and older adults to advocate for leaves that pay laws at the local and state level. Leaves that pay policies are the best way to ensure that workers don’t have to choose between their family and their job. Job security and steady wages are crucial for the Hispanic community as many workers are also caregivers and heads of households. Read More

10 Considerations for Working with the Diversity of Older LGBT Latinos

Effective outreach begins with a plan and developing a plan requires research. Yet, anyone trying to develop an outreach plan for older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Latinos can quickly feel as if he or she is hitting one brick wall after another—there is simply a lack of resources dedicated to this community.  Sure, you may be able to find strategies on how-to engage seniors, LGBT youth or the Latino population at large, but these strategies do not speak to the unique experiences and challenges faced by older LGBT Latinos.

For those of you whose organizations are trying to better engage this community, you may simply need a place to start. You may wonder, “What are the most effective outreach techniques to reach Older LGBT Latinos?” As the former Outreach Coordinator for SAGE Harlem (a program for LGBT older adults serving a significant Latino population), I have asked myself the same question. Through trial and error, I have been able to identify the top ten considerations for working with the diversity of older LGBT Latinos.

Read More

Celebrating Grandparents Day

BY DOUA THOR, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUTHEAST ASIA RESOURCE ACTION CENTER (SEARAC)

In anticipation of Grandparents Day, which is September 9, the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center is celebrating elders through our “Grandparent Wisdom Project.” In recognition of the wonderful contribution of grandparents—and all elders—to our families and communities, we are asking individuals to submit photos of important elders in their lives and share with us what their elders have taught them.

Read More

Latino Seniors Describe their Needs

This summer, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) has been traveling to key regions of the country to host its Promoting Communities of Success Regional Meetings.  These meetings allow NHCOA to hear the needs and perspectives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers and also to empower them to become more civically engaged.

Newspaper articles print grim economic statistics, but in order to learn the true human cost of these numbers, we must listen to real individuals and hear their background and perspective. This information is key in aligning daily needs with meaningful policy solutions. Three common themes we picked up at the Dallas and Miami regional meetings were: (1) Hispanic older adults are still recovering from the economic downturn of 2008, (2) they are uneasy about the future, and (3) despite their fears and concerns, they are eager to be a part of the solution.

Read More

Growing an Online Movement for Our Communities

The Diverse Elders Coalition came together in 2010 to imagine policy solutions that would improve the lives of elders of color and LGBT elders. Already, we have seen some advocacy wins and this summer we released a historic report on the economic security issues facing our communities.

Now we’re trying to grow our visibility and build a national online movement for diverse elders. Watch the video below and help us spread the word!

 

 

‘Elders Support Families in Economic, Emotional, and Spiritual Ways’

BY DOUA THOR, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUTHEAST ASIA RESOURCE ACTION CENTER (SEARAC)

My grandmother helped raised almost all of the grandchildren in our family at some point or another. My grandmother had nine children and because my family came to the United States as refugees, most of our parents had to work multiple jobs. My parents, aunts, and uncles were grateful to have her support.  At the federal level, we separate the issues of elders from the rest of the population in policy discussions. Sometimes, those issues are even pitted against each other, and we are made to think that providing for elders means that there is less for young people. On the ground in communities, however, the lives and well-being of elders are closely intertwined to the well-being of communities and families. Like my grandmother, elders support families in economic, emotional, and spiritual ways.  And yet, their contributions are often overlooked and unappreciated.  Southeast Asian American elders, have become invisible to the mainstream.

As they age, many Southeast Asian American elders (who arrived as refugees from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam) face numerous barriers and challenges to attaining long term care. As a community, over 90% of Southeast Asian Americans 65 and older in California live in family households, as opposed to institutional alternatives.  There are limited services that allow elders to remain in their own homes, and there are even fewer opportunities for culturally and linguistically-specific services that would support the independence and living choices of elders. SEARAC works toward ensuring that there is adequate and stable funding and resources for programs that support elders who choose to maintain independent lifestyles in their homes and their communities and to ensure that provisions of the Affordable Care Act preserve and improve existing community-based and in-home care programs. Additionally, SEARAC works to ensure that aging policies address language access provisions and culturally specific needs of elders so that English language learners have access to vital information and resources.

Read More