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.

We know that many of these outcomes are the result of health and economic disparities, cultural barriers and outright discrimination. However, I contend that programs and initiatives that provide culturally appropriate and consistent messaging, and foster awareness and encourage simple changes – do supply the tools required to induce steps toward positive changes and can improve health.

Miss Fannie’s health did improve. Almost four years ago, at age 76, Miss Fannie began to attend one of the DC Office on Aging Senior Wellness Centers three times a week. The Center picked her up at her home and brought her home in the evening. The workers called her Ms. Woody or Miss Fannie and called when she was not out waiting on the porch. She became less isolated and made friends with many people who were her peers and had similar life experiences. In addition to a nutritional lunch and the traditional bingo, she and her companions learned about and participated in a City activity. One day my nonpolitical stepmother is telling us she participated in a conversation with the Mayor at a senior forum she attended!! [My silent response although positive, took a deeper dive to: who are you and where is my stepmother??]
Read More 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.

Yet NHCOA’s new report—released in partnership with the national LGBT aging advocacy non-profit, SAGE—contends that this wave has left behind a more marginalized population: LGBT Latino elders. Based on a year’s worth of expert interviews, a literature review (that tellingly emphasizes the general dearth in research on LGBT Latino people) and focus groups in four major metropolitan cities with high concentrations of Latinos and LGBT people, NHCOA paints a portrait of Latino LGBT elders aging in communities that aren’t accepting of their full identities. LGBT Latinos also report both fearing and encountering biased care providers without the skills or resources to support their unique needs. Read More Read More

HHS announces important Medicare information for people in same-sex marriages

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the Social Security Administration (SSA) is now able to process requests for Medicare Part A and Part B Special Enrollment Periods, and reductions in Part B and premium Part A late enrollment penalties for certain eligible people in same-sex marriages. This is another step HHS is taking in response to the June 26, 2013 Supreme Court ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, which held section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. Because of this ruling, Medicare is no longer prevented by DOMA from recognizing same-sex marriages for determining entitlement to, or eligibility, for Medicare.

“Today’s announcement helps to clarify the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision and to ensure that all married couples are treated equally under the law,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We are working together with SSA to process these requests in a timely manner to ensure all beneficiaries, regardless of sexual orientation, are treated fairly under the law.”

While Medicare is managed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), SSA is responsible for determining eligibility for, and enrolling people in, Medicare.

For additional information, please visit: http://medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/same-sex-marriage.html.

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Like HHS on Facebook, follow HHS on Twitter @HHSgov, and sign up for HHS Email Updates
Follow HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Twitter @Sebelius

Aging in America 2014: Health Reform Advocacy and Engagement in Communities of Color and LGBT Communities

Will you be joining the 3,000 engaged aging professionals and experts March 11-15, 2014 in Sunny San Diego for the ASA Aging in America 2014 conference?

Interested in exploring best practices and learning about successful advocacy and engagement tactics to better engage older adults of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elders around the Affordable Care Act and their health?

Yes? Join us Friday March 14, 2014 from 1-2:30pm for a presentation entitled Health Reform Advocacy and Engagement in Communities of Color and LGBT Communities. Leading experts from our nation’s diverse aging organizations will be on hand to share lessons learned, opportunities and challenges within their communities in accessing the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and living full and healthy lives. Speakers include:

  • Introduction from Christine Takada, President & CEO of the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA)
  • Bryan Pacheco, National Coordinator of the Diverse Elders Coalition
  • Randella Bluehouse, Executive Director of the National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA)
  • Robert Espinoza, Senior Director of Public Policy & Communications of Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
  • Jason Coates, Policy Associate of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)

As contested and contentious issues go, the American Society on Aging knows there is no hotter topic than the Affordable Care Act. As the ACA approaches its fourth anniversary, it remains a dominant policy and political issue. It is a landmark and transformational law providing first-time access to healthcare for millions, promising reforms in healthcare delivery under Medicare and promoting elder justice in America. At the Diverse Elders Coalition, we know that the ACA has the ability to create a path to better health by offering more affordable health insurance options, improving services and eliminating the usual obstacles. Join us!

AT A GLANCE:

Health Reform Advocacy and Engagement in Communities of Color and LGBT Communities
Friday, March 14, 2014: 01:00 PM – 02:30 PM
Room: Cortez Hill B (3rd floor, Seaport Tower)
Event Format: 90-minute Workshop
Event Category: Policy & Advocacy — Healthcare Reform
Book Code: FR345

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. For generations, economic injustice has been designed into the housing realities of moderate- to low-income Americans as structurally as their home floor plans; it has concentrated wealth into the privileged few and left the rest with housing instability, enduring inequality and, at its worst, homelessness. New research confirms these realities. In this context, I am privileged to afford an apartment that offers shelter through the bitter storms let loose increasingly through climate change. And I am comforted by knowing that the closest people to me constitute a home that makes the broader storms of life more bearable.

These two notions—the physical shelter afforded through adequate and affordable housing, and the sanctity of a “home” comprising loved ones we can proudly claim as our own—form the heart of the housing debate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. As with most people, we migrate from one place to the next, uprooting ourselves in search of belonging. Yet as two recent reports demonstrate, for many LGBT people—specifically LGBT people of color and elders—this quest for home routinely comes up against a housing supply that’s dilapidated, stretched thin, too expensive and far removed from the cities and neighborhoods we deserve to inhabit. We are blocked by biased housing providers unwilling to treat us on fair, negotiable terms. We crave homes through severe economic distress and pervasive inequality. It’s an unrelenting journey, begun at birth and made more fragile in later life.

The relationship between aging and housing discrimination forms the subject of a new report from the Equal Rights Center, in partnership with SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders). Read More Read More

When the Healer is not Healed – The Pain of Losing a Child in Your Later Years (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.

cythnia_diaoBy 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?”

Grief-LGBThands1

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 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 Read More

Webinar Recording: Why the Affordable Care Act Matters to Diverse Older People

The health coverage expansions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will affect you, your loved ones and your communities. The Diverse Elders Coalition represents millions of diverse older people age 50+ who are among those affected: they include the Health Insurance Marketplace, the Medicaid expansion, new benefits for elders 65+ on Medicare, and a range of protections that make health care more accessible for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older people and older people of color. The number of uninsured older adults age 50-64 continues to rise—from 3.7 million in 2000 to 8.9 million in 2010. In addition, people of color make up more than half of uninsured people in the U.S.— and research shows that people of color, across the age span, face significant disparities in physical and mental health. Additionally, many people of color delay care because of potential medical costs and out of fear of discrimination or cultural incompetence from medical providers. This webinar highlights both national and state-specific examples on what is being done to ensure that older people know about the changes that are taking place under the ACA and how it affects them.

Speakers: Yanira Cruz, President and CEO, National Hispanic Council on Aging; Michael Adams, Executive Director, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE). Special thanks to our co-sponsors, The John A. Hartford Foundation and The California Wellness Foundation.

Original Webinar date: Wednesday, November 6, 2013.

Watch it at http://www.screencast.com/t/yzeTQbgEze2.

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

WEBINAR: Why Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act Matters to Older People of Color and LGBT Older People

When: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 2-3pm EST
Register Now: http://bit.ly/1c0l5zd
Speakers: Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO, National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)
Michael Adams, Executive Director, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)
Who can attend? Advocates. Policy makers. Older Adults. Funders. Anyone interested in learning more about Obamacare and how it affects diverse older people. *There will also be additional information for funders on how they can support both national and state-specific work.

First 30 Minutes: Conversation with Dr. Cruz and Michael Adams about why Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act Matters to diverse older people. Learn about the opportunities, challenges and lessons learned.
Second Half of the Conversation: Dr. Cruz and Michael Adams will take your questions.

WEBINAR DESCRIPTION
The health coverage expansions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will affect you, your loved ones and your communities. The Diverse Elders Coalition represents millions of diverse older people age 50+ who are among those affected by these expansions. They include the Health Insurance Marketplace, the Medicaid expansion, new benefits for elders 65+ on Medicare, and a range of protections that make health care more accessible for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older people and older people of color. The number of uninsured older adults age 50-64 continues to rise—from 3.7 million in 2000 to 8.9 million in 2010. In addition, people of color make up more than half of the uninsured people in the U.S.— and research shows that people of color, across the age span, face significant disparities in physical and mental health. Additionally, many people of color delay care because of potential medical costs and out of fear of discrimination or cultural incompetence from medical providers. These issues are especially true for LGBT people of color who face challenges on multiple aspects of their identities. The ACA has the ability to create a path to better health by offering more affordable health insurance options, improving services and eliminating the usual obstacles. This webinar will highlight both national and state-specific examples of what is being done to ensure that older people know about the changes that are taking place under the ACA and how it affects them.

This webinar is in collaboration with Grantmakers in Aging (GIA) as part of their “Conversation with GIA” series.

Special thanks to our co-sponsors, The John A. Hartford Foundation and The California Wellness Foundation.

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 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 Read More

HHS awards $67 million to Navigators and recognizes the DEC member organizations as Champions for Coverage

According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced $67 million in grant awards to 105 Navigator grant applicants in Federally-facilitated and State Partnership Marketplaces. These Navigator grantees and their staff will serve as an in-person resource for Americans who want additional assistance in shopping for and enrolling in plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace beginning this fall. Also today, HHS recognized more than 100 national organizations and businesses who have volunteered to help Americans learn about the health care coverage available in the Marketplace.  Read the full release here.

The Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) is pleased to announce that its member organizations, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), and the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) were among those organizations recognized as a Champion for Coverage. These champions pitch in to help consumers understand the coming options for quality, affordable coverage. The DEC will officially be recognized as a Champion for Coverage in the coming weeks. Click here to learn more about organizations participating in Champions for Coverage.

The coalition also congratulates NHCOA who were among the 106 Navigator awardees. NHCOA will deploy Navigators in Dade County, Florida, and Dallas County, Texas, to enroll the uninsured Hispanic population in these two counties with a focus on members of this population that are socially isolated due to cultural and linguistic differences. Click here for a list of Navigator awardees or more information about Navigators and other in-person assisters.

Be sure to continue coming back to diverseelders.org to stay updated on the health insurance marketplaces and their impact on diverse elders.

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 Read More