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
Latinos are the largest and fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S., and comprise 17% of the population. They are often viewed as a monolithic group by mainstream culture. However, the term Latino, referring to people of Mexican, Central American, and South American origins, encompasses great diversity with regard to nationality, immigration history, language use, educational and occupational opportunities, and socio-economic position. These aspects of diversity also serve as indicators of social-structural determinants of health disparities (or differences in how often a disease affects people). How these social-structural determinants of health affect the lives of older Latino adults help us to better address the needs of this population. Understanding health disparities also provides insight into challenges faced by diverse elders from a variety of racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds who deal with many of these same issues. The intersection of HIV/AIDS and depression among older Latinos will be used to illustrate how these social-structural determinants affect the health and well-being of a diverse aging population.
Double Jeopardy: HIV and Depression
Latinos are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. The overall HIV prevalence rate for Latinos is nearly three times the rate for whites. Further, Latinos are the most likely to be classified at Stage 3 (i.e., AIDS) at the time of their HIV diagnosis (48%), as compared with whites (42%) and blacks (39%). Due to successful anti-retroviral therapy, by 2015 more than half of those with HIV in the U.S. will be 50 years or older, a proportion that will rise to 70% by 2020. The disparity in HIV prevalence is amplified among older people with HIV/AIDS. Among Latinos who are 50 and older, HIV prevalence is five times that of older non-Hispanic whites. In addition, older Latinos have a 44% increased risk for major depression and are more likely to present with clinically significant depressive symptoms compared with older whites. This syndemic (convergence of two disorders that magnify the negative effects of each) of HIV and mental distress among Latino older people with HIV (“OPWH”) is an important public health concern since the most consistent predictor of HIV treatment non-adherence is depression, and only 26% of Latinos with HIV achieve the clinical goal of viral suppression.Read More
When our nation talks about Asian Americans, it often groups together people from different cultures and those who speak different languages. Someone from China faces different challenges than a refugee from Cambodia, yet research typically wouldn’t show this. As a group, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are the fastest growing population in the United States. Despite the large and rapidly growing population, research and data on AAPI elders is limited and often presented in aggregate (i.e. grouped together). Aggregate data belies the diversity and the challenges faced within the AAPI older adult population.
The National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) recently published five reports that paint a fuller and more accurate picture of the challenges many APPI older adults face. The reports divide the population into three groups (aged 55 & older, aged 55-64, and aged 65 & older) and highlight the language, economic, and employment characteristics of AAPI elders. NAPCA used publically available sources from various government agencies, and disaggregated (or separated) the data to better depict the realities of the AAPI older adult population (55+). See an example below.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2006-2010 American Community Survey, 5-Year Estimates
Demystifying the “Model Minority” StereotypeRead More
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
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
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
And I work for the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults.
So, what does this mean?
Well, for me, it made me really think: What are the stories being told about older LGBT AAPI people? Are they even being told? Outside of the amazing George Takei, I can’t think of another prominent openly gay Asian American older person. Can you?
I am Puerto Rican, gay and not yet 30 years old, so the stories of older LGBT AAPI people are not my personal story. Therefore, it was important that I find individuals who could tell and share these stories… And that was difficult. Read More
Americans who are people of color, older adults and LGBT identified (referred to in this blog post as LGBT elders of color) often have unique needs because of the intersections of identities. LGBT elders of color are historically marginalized on multiple fronts and their needs are often under addressed in the mainstream aging field and in the popular LGBT rights movement. 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.
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
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.
SEARAC provides technical assistance to a number of Burmese and Bhutanese community organizations in the US to build strong, local ethnic community-based organizations and faith-based organizations. For this blog post, we interviewed Chum Awi, a key leader and elder in the Chin community, an ethnic minority from Burma. Chum is based out of Lewisville, Texas and works with the Chin Community of Lewisville. Read More
Harlem is undoubtedly one of the most well-known African-American neighborhoods in NYC and the nation. Part of its rich history includes the Harlem Renaissance, a literary movement celebrating black cultural identity in the 1920s and 30’s. It is also home to the Apollo Theatre, a cultural landmark that has hosted influential black icons and leaders such as President Barack Obama, Chaka Khan and Michael Jackson. What might not be as well-known, however, is that there are a number of local black and gay-owned businesses in the community such as Harlem Flo and Billie’s Black, showcasing that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people exist in Harlem.
There is also a significant aging community. One in three Harlem residents are age 50 and older, according to 2006 estimates from The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. And as an outreach coordinator for SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders), I also know well that a significant number of these older adults are LGBT.