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.
By Cynthia Diao, Assistant Program Coordinator at SAGE Harlem, a safe haven for LGBT older people in Harlem, East Harlem and the Bronx.
About a year ago, my only son died by suicide and it has caused a rollercoaster of feelings. It was hard to enter 2014 without my baby boy. And Valentine’s Day is coming, couples and families will be celebrating their loved ones, while I will be mourning.
Because I am a religious woman, I look to God and ask: “How do I get through this pain?”
As a minister, I pray for people. I visit my friends and family when they are sick, encourage them and speak words of wisdom to those in need. I lend an ear when someone needs to be heard. I listen to others share their excitement of love and joy for Valentine’s Day and all along my heart is breaking.
The first months after Raymond’s death, I could not understand why God did not let me know my son was in spiritual danger. I often feel when others need intercessory prayer. I often feel when close friends are sick, and I direct them to the doctor. “But God, why didn’t I know about my son?” I ask. Read More
Recently, the National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA) spoke with Roxane Spruce Bly, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, who has been leading the ACA outreach and enrollment effort for American Indian/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) in New Mexico. Ms. Spruce Bly brings invaluable experience in the field of health policy research, analysis, and development. She is the Director of Healthcare Education and Outreach for Native American Professional Parent Resources (NAPPR), Inc. NAPPR is one of two navigator entities in New Mexico.
Roxane Spruce Bly
She reflects that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) got off to a rocky start but her team turned that barrier into an opportunity to focus on outreach and education. The older Indians they target are those in the 55–64 age group, too young to receive Medicare and yet perhaps ready to plan for their retirement or address a long standing health issue. Ms. Spruce Bly is excited to get the message out about health insurance in New Mexico. Her theory of change is that once people increase their knowledge they will in turn change their behavior. Her initial approach resulted in 441 inquiry calls which led to 269 appointments, culminating in 244 individuals signing up for coverage.
Ms. Spruce Bly shared two remarkable success stories. One self-employed older couple too young for Medicare signed up and found a plan for 32 cents a month, with no cost sharing, no co-insurance, and no co-pay. They were also able to assist an older man who was paying over $400 a month for Medicare part A; once he signed up he was able to get the same coverage for $6.00 a month. Read More
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
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
Historically Southeast Asian Americans have faced significant barriers to accessing affordable health insurance and culturally and linguistically appropriate health care. These barriers have contributed to healthdisparities:
• Southeast Asian American communities experience high uninsurance rates; 26.7% of Hmong Americans live in poverty and 18.3% of Vietnamese Americans lack health coverage.
• Asian American adults aged 65 years and older were 30% less likely to have ever received the pneumonia shot compared to white adults of the same age group.
• One of the greatest health disparities between Southeast Asians and the general population is liver cancer, 80 percent of which is caused by chronic hepatitis B virus infection. Liver cancer rates for Vietnamese men are 13 times higher than rates for White men.
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
Watch out, kids — don’t assume you can do things online without your grandma finding out. In fact, if you live in Ward 2, Grandma might be doing things online that you’ve never thought of, reads The Washington Post.
Harriet Carter-Brown, 63, of Washington, D.C., smiles as she looks at photos of lighthouses on her iPad during the twice weekly Connect to Community class in the basement of Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., on July 9, 2013.
Last week, I posted about the benefits of older adults getting online. The Washington Post just published an article about a program called Connecting to Community that teaches older adults in Washington, DC how to use an iPad and go online. The program has been successful at reducing isolation and will expand to other parts of Washington next month. Read More
Two Older LGBT Hispanic men at a SAGE 2011 health fair
With the rapid growth of our diverse population, our country is becoming more beautiful than ever. But unfortunately, there are still some groups that are not well understood by the nation’s service providers, or by local, state and federal governments. One of those groups is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) older adults. And in order to better understand the reality of this diverse community, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) conducted an analysis through a literature review, focus groups (one was held at The SAGE Center; SAGE is fellow member organization of the Diverse Elders Coalition) and in-depth interviews with LGBT Hispanic older adults, including the service providers who work with them. Read More
“Will immigration reform help me reunite with my grandchildren?”
“My husband passed from cancer I wish there were more support services.”
“We want to take care of our family in harmony.”
An elder at Cannon House Office Building
On Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 60 youth and elders spoke up with these comments and questions. SEARAC, alongside the Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, held an advocacy day where the group met with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the federal agencies, and Congressional offices in Washington, DC.
March is National Women’s History Month. Recognizing the contributions older Latinas make is important, but it does not happen often enough in our society. The Hispanic older women that the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) works with encourage others to contribute to their communities and provide inspiration for those looking for the right way to give. The theme for this year’s Women’s History Month is “Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination,” and the community leaders that NHCOA has trained live this theme on a daily basis.
Over the last several years, NHCOA has conducted Empowerment and Civic Engagement Training (ECET) and developed over 800 community leaders, the vast majority of them older adult women. 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.
I grew up during the civil rights movement, seeing powerful black activists around me fight for our civil rights as a people. I also grew up during the Stonewall Riots, feeling the hostility society harbored toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. And I grew up during a time when I lost many loved ones due to HIV/AIDS, a disease that was viewed by the world as a critical epidemic.
Now it’s 2013. Today as a black gay man, I enjoy more freedoms and rights (as a New Yorker, I have the right to marry my long-term partner Stanton). Yet, for older black gay men who are living with HIV/AIDs, it’s still a difficult journey.
January 21, 2013 will mark the official Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day of Service, empowering individuals and communities to come together and volunteer their time to get involved and give back. Americans are encouraged to help out where they can, whether it’s serving food at a soup kitchen or organizing a clothing drive for those in need. Together, we can begin to create solutions to social problems, moving us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a beloved community.
Shelly Montrose, an older African American lesbian from Harlem started giving back because of her friend. Read her story here.