At 81, George Stewart has been a longtime advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older people in New York City. He’s a former Army clerk and U.S. Air Force court reporter, and last summer he was selected by the White House as one of six Champions of Change nationwide for LGBT Pride Month. Yet behind his active civic life and national profile lies another reality: George Stewart is low income, and as with millions of older people, he relies on federal assistance to supplement his income and on local services for community support. For many low-income LGBT older people, public assistance and support networks interlock as lifelines — ameliorating poverty, reducing isolation and helping to manage the slew of challenges that come with getting older. Unfortunately, despite the prevalence of poverty among elders in this country, including LGBT elders, these realities are rarely brought to light. 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.”
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.
It was incredibly inspiring this week to see elders speaking up, with local impact through the group of Cambodian-American elders we hosted, as well national as I followed coverage of the Supreme Court arguments on United States v. Windsor. Check out our fellow DEC partner SAGE’s blog for more great insights on the issue and more about Edie’s own amazing story.
The week isn’t even over yet, but I wanted to contribute five reflections on advocacy with Southeast Asian American elders: Read More
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:
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.
See you on the 18th!
To learn more about DEC members, click here.
The following is a guest post by George Stewart, SAGE constituent.
Not long ago, the Washington Post reprinted a letter signed by a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) millionaires asking Congress to come to a resolution on the “fiscal cliff” by preventing across-the-board spending cuts to federal programs, preserving tax cuts for the middle class and allowing tax cuts for the wealthiest to expire. As heartened as I was to see some LGBT voices in the public debate on economic issues, I wondered how many people know how the impending spending cuts will impact a vast majority of LGBT older people throughout the country—people like me.
I have spent much of my life looking for where I fit in, while striving to serve my country and my community. I’ve witnessed intolerance in my life, as well as positive change. In the 1950s, I was a black soldier in a segregated Army unit stationed in the South. I found a lot of camaraderie with the soldiers in my unit, but we always felt that we had to go above and beyond—if another outfit shined the tops of their shoes, we’d shine the bottom of ours. I was stationed last in Louisiana, where one of my most vivid memories is being singled out by a policeman because he thought I was sitting too close to a white woman in a public park. When my enlistment ended in Louisiana, I decided that I would move to New York City. I hoped my move would lead to better things—an opportunity to be an individual in a big city, instead of being viewed as just a black man inappropriately sitting down next to a white woman. Read More
Last week, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO ) introduced a bill that could improve supports for millions of LGBT elders through the Older Americans Act. SAGE has been working on this issue for almost three years — from raising awareness and producing policy reports, to hosting Congressional briefings and securing support from the influential Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, to working closely with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and various aging groups in DC.
There are many services and supports for older adults available at no cost. Things like home delivered meals, transportation services, and benefits counseling all help older adults live in their own homes and communities and age in dignity. The Older Americans Act (OAA) is the law that provides these services and supports and creates the nation’s infrastructure for aging. It is an invaluable law that helps millions of people each year. Despite the law’s successes and importance, it faces deep budget cuts and is becoming outdated. Read More
BY FAY GORDON, NATIONAL SENIOR CITIZENS LAW CENTER
On June 28, I joined 1.7 million anxious SCOTUSblog followers, and held my breath until 10:09 a.m. when the words “the individual mandate survives as a tax” appeared on the screen. Cue the applause in the office — health care reform survived!
While we celebrated, I thought of the seniors benefitting from health care reform. Unlike the lawyers and wonks, they were not rushing to print copies of the opinion, or feverishly e-mailing colleagues. They likely carried on with their Thursday morning-working and taking care of families and grandchildren. In a flashback to the 2010 health care debate, the law’s tremendous improvements for seniors was largely ignored amid the squawking about Obamacare, penalties and taxes. Once again, seniors run the risk of misinformation and myths about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This is an ideal time to reflect on the ACA’s positive changes:
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.
Earlier this summer, I participated in the National Academy of Social Insurance’s seminar for young people, “Demystfying Social Security.” It was a great experience to engage with summer interns and learn from other young people on the Social Security program, and it’s reaffirmed my deep appreciation for Social Security as a key tenet of the our social safety net.
Social Security is so often thought of as a program for the elderly and those who are retired. But as a young person who hopes to be able to retire one day, I am struck by the broad impact of the program to reach nearly every American at every age, every income level, able-bodied as well as differently-abled. More than 6.5 million American children receive family income from Social Security. Specifically, more than 1 million children are kept out of poverty from Social Security benefits. And, unfortunately, a 20-year-old worker has a 3 in 10 chance of becoming disabled before reaching the normal retirement age, making Social Security Disability Income an important asset.
Much of the negative press around Social Security has accused the program of running out of money, paying out poor returns, and being an overall poor investment. In actuality, Social Security is incredibly stable. Social Security is fully financed until 2033, and even if Congress takes no action, Social Security will still be able to pay about 85% of obligations until 2086. If the future still seems uncertain, refer to Social Security’s track record: it has never missed a payment since its inception in 1935, and has consistently paid out benefits on time and in full. Social Security has outlasted wartime turmoil, Wall Street booms and busts, and political fluctuations. But most importantly, Social Security is insurance that has been there to support individual Americans through our personal life events.
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!
The Older Americans Act (OAA) serves as the country’s leading vehicle for delivering services to older people nationwide, providing more than $2 billion annually in nutrition and social services. Since its enactment in 1965, the OAA has aimed to ensure that older people have the supports they need to age in good health and with broad community support. It places an emphasis on more vulnerable elders who face multiple barriers that can aggravate economic insecurity, social isolation, and various health challenges related to aging.
Yet strangely, despite ample evidence of their heightened vulnerability and their need for unique aging supports, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older people are invisible in this landmark law. As the OAA comes up for reauthorization, and as millions of LGBT people enter retirement age, Congress should ensure that the OAA supports all elders, including those who require unique supports. LGBT older adults should be written into the framework of the Older Americans Act.
“[NHCOA is] multiplying leadership through us. If these thirty some people trained today can reach at least two people, in one or two weeks we will double. And, in few more weeks, they will train others and we will multiply again, and so forth.” – Maria Teresa Guzman, Empowerment and Civic Engagement Trainings (ECET)
When civic engagement comes to mind, we may think of youth mobilization and empowerment. Although engaging our younger generations is crucial, it is equally as important to empower older voters. Yet as the growth of the older American population quickly outpaces that of youth, we see certain segments of this population becoming increasingly isolated.
That is why we need to ensure the voice of older Americans—especially diverse elders— is elevated at the decision-making table when it comes to public policies that can dramatically impact their lives.
The National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) is conducting its signature Empowerment and Civic Engagement Trainings (ECET) throughout key regions of the country to energize, mobilize, and empower Hispanic older adults, families, and caregivers to be their own best advocates.
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.
The congressional briefing hosted on July 25 by the Diverse Elders Coalition, held in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, was a great success! Thank you to all who attended to hear more about out new policy report and issues facing our diverse elder communities. Here are a few photos from the briefing, taken by DC-based photographer Astrid Riecken. Enjoy!