AIDS AND AGING: A REALITY THAT DEMANDS OUR ATTENTION

Maria Eugenia Hernandez-Lane, Vice President of NHCOA

Maria Eugenia Hernandez-Lane, Vice President of NHCOA

The AID Institute’s 7th annual National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (NHAAAD) will be observed September 18, 2014 with the theme “Aging is a part of life; HIV doesn’t have to be!” For more information about HIV/AIDS and older Americans or to become involved with the campaign, visit www.NHAAAD.org.

Among diverse communities, the stigma of HIV is a cause of shame, embarrassment, and worse of all, denial and silence. When denial and silence are present, the lack of communication and information lead to myths and misinformation. Worst of all, silence results in increased infections and is inevitably compounded by stigma, which leads to people living with HIV who are undiagnosed and therefore, untreated.

In the U.S. alone, 1 out of 6 persons is unaware s/he is HIV positive. The reality is that older Americans are just at risk of HIV infection as younger age groups are.

[Learn more HIV statistics in the United States]

In fact, adults 55 years and older represented nearly one-fifth of the U.S. population living with HIV in 2010. The CDC estimates that by next year (2015), this number will double, which means that half of the people living with HIV in this country will be 50 years and older. There are several reasons why older Americans who are HIV+ may not be aware of their status:

  • HIV tests aren’t always included as part of the check up routine, and seniors tend to think they don’t know need to ask for one;
  • The signs of HIV/AIDS can be mistaken for the aches and pains of normal aging;
  • Older adults are less likely to discuss their sex lives or drug use with loved ones or a health care provider;
  • Myths and misinformation that lead seniors to believe that they are “too old” to get infected;
  • Lack of targeted public education*.

However, we should not only be concerned with reducing HIV infections among the older adult population.

Medical advances have allowed people with HIV who get treated— and stay in treatment— to lead longer, healthier lives. Yet, the success of these new treatments and the increased longevity of patients have led to new challenges to the proper prevention and care of older Americans living with HIV, especially those who are from diverse communities. There is a lack of research aimed at aging with HIV, as well as few prevention campaigns, clinical guidelines, demonstration projects and training initiatives targeting older adults living with HIV, particularly diverse seniors. While the Affordable Care Act does include provisions to support people living with HIV/AIDS, including older Americans, the public policy landscape is scarce when it comes to seniors and HIV/AIDS.

[Related content: Learn how the ACA is helping older Americans living with HIV.]

Older Americans with HIV are often excluded from major legislation, policy initiatives and programs— from the White House Conference on Aging, to the Older Americans Act and the Ryan White CARE Act, to the Medicaid expansion, and more.

Left unaddressed, generations of older adults with HIV/AIDS will lack the supports they need to age with dignity and in the best health possible. This is why the Diverse Elders Coalition in collaboration with ACRIA (AIDS Community Research Initiative of America) released 8 recommendations that have the potential of dramatically improving the lives of diverse seniors, and all older Americans, living with HIV.

What you can do on National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

* To combat this, NHCOA is a partner of the CDC’s Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, which is focused on reducing the incidence of HIV/AIDS among diverse communities. Through culturally and linguistically appropriate, and age sensitive outreach and education, NHCOA conducts HIV outreach and education among Hispanic older adults and families to dissipate the stigma and silence.

Additional Resources

www.cdc.gov/hiv

www.aids.gov

www.hhs.gov/ash/ohaidp

www.aoa.gov/AoARoot/AoA_Programs/HPW/HIV_AIDS

Posted by Maria Eugenia Hernandez-Lane, Vice President of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA). The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.

Webinar: Marketplace Outreach for Diverse Populations – Thurs. Sept. 25 at 2pm EDT

cms                    DEC Logo enclosed

When: Thursday, September 25, 2014 at 2:00pm EDT

Webinar Link: https://webinar.cms.hhs.gov/marketplacedp92514/

Call in number: 1-877-267-1577        Meeting ID: 995 471 476

No advanced registration is required.

Speakers:

  • Jeanette Contreras, MPP, Outreach Lead – Partner Relations Group, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • Jonathan Tran, California Policy and Advocacy Manager, Southeast Asia Action Resource Center (SEARAC)
  • Patrick Aitcheson, Interim National Coordinator, Diverse Elders Coalition

Who should attend? Advocates. Policy makers. Older adults. Funders. Anyone interested in learning more about ACA enrollment as we approach the start of year 2, especially lessons learned for enrolling and supporting typically difficult to reach populations such as Southeast Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians & Alaska Natives, and LGBT Americans.

What: Please join CMS and the Diverse Elders Coalition for a webinar that will highlight ACA Marketplace Year 2 enrollment guidance for immigrant families and auto-enrollment; Marketplace outreach resources and campaign materials; and lessons learned for reaching older people of color and LGBT older people.

Background: Year one open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act/ACA/Obamacare ran from October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014. Over 9 million people obtained health coverage via the Marketplace and another 8 million people obtained Medicaid coverage. As year one open enrollment ended, educational needs continued regarding special enrollment periods, immigrant families, health insurance literacy and how to get the most from this new coverage. Year two open enrollment begins November 15. While year one enrollment brought much needed health coverage to many millions of people, not all communities were reached equally well. Language and cultural issues, lack of health literacy, and limited individualized enrollment support were among the barriers faced by certain communities. Many lessons were learned in year one on how to reach hard to reach populations and these lessons need to be shared and followed in order to boost coverage levels among older adults of color and LGBT older adults. This webinar will discuss the challenges and barriers to reaching Southeast Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, and LGBT Americans and convey the lessons learned and tips that can be applied to boost year two success.

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.

Medicare & the Windsor Decision: Where do we stand?

By Aaron Tax and Kira Garcia

Last year’s Windsor decision has triggered a series of ongoing changes that impact many of us on a day-to-day basis. For LGBT older adults, Medicare is one of the most critical Federal programs undergoing change. So where do Medicare recipients currently stand? Our Q&A with Casey Schwarz of the Medicare Rights Center answers some important questions.

I live in a same-sex marriage state like Massachusetts, Iowa, New Mexico or one of the other 18 states and the District of Columbia (as of May 19, 2014) that allow for same-sex marriage. What new or increased Medicare benefits am I eligible for as a spouse in a same-sex married couple? 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

8 Ways the U.S. Must Prepare for More Seniors with HIV

This article by David Heitz originally appeared on HealthlineNews.com

On the eve of National HIV/AIDS Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day, a new report shows that the median age of Americans with HIV is 58 and that the the United States is woefully unprepared for a growing population of seniors with the virus.

By the end of 2010, more than 630,000 people in the United States had died from AIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At the end of 2009, more than 1.1 million people in the U.S. ages 13 and older were living with HIV. Some 80,000 of these people have been living with the disease for decades, and they are known as long-term survivors. Thursday, June 5, is National HIV/AIDS Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day. Read More

Creating unlikely partnerships to improve the health of diverse older adults

Community Catalyst and the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) are thrilled to announce the launch of two new partnerships on the ground in New Mexico and Georgia. The unlikely partnerships will facilitate the ongoing education and enrollment of Native American, Bhutanese and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults (age 50+)—and their loved ones—in these two states.

In both states, partner organizations are working collaboratively to inform their communities about the Affordable Care Act’s benefits. While the Health Insurance Marketplace closed on March 31 for most, enrollment continues year round for Native Americans and those eligible for Medicaid. In Georgia, these new partnerships also serve as additional, targeted support for the state legislature and administration to take up the Medicaid expansion. 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

Dion Wong: A conversation with a 69-year-old Chinese gay man (AAPI Heritage Month)

In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, the Diverse Elders Coalition is featuring stories relevant to AAPI older adults (their successes, their struggles, their history) during May. A new story will be shared every Thursday with additional posts shared throughout the month. Be sure to visit diverseelders.org regularly during the month of May.

By Dion Wong

Dion Wong: from GRIOT Circle

Dion Wong: from GRIOT Circle

Dion Wong is a 69-year-old Chinese gay man. Retired since 2002, Dion was a middle school teacher for over 34 years in San Francisco and was married in Canada in 2006 to his partner, Benjamin Aquino, Jr. They have been together for 18 years. Read his experience as a gay Chinese man and his views on the broader older LGBT AAPI community.

As an older Chinese gay man, what do you think are some common issues you (and your community) face? Read More

What can we do to honor older Americans? Reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA)! (Older Americans Month)

By Aaron Tax, Director of Federal Government Relations at Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE).

May is of course Older Americans Month. And given that it is Older Americans Month, what is one of the most important things we can do to honor older Americans? Reauthorize the Older Americans Act (OAA)! What is that, you ask? It’s probably the most important piece of aging legislation that most people in our country don’t know anything about.

  • Did you know?
    • The OAA originally passed in 1965 as part of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society?
    • The OAA is one of three big pieces of legislation that form the safety net for older adults in the United States, with Social Security providing income supports, Medicare providing healthcare supports, and the OAA providing the “everything else” that allows older adults to stay at home and age in place in their communities.
    • In fact, the OAA is the primary vehicle for the organization and delivery of social services and supports and nutrition programs for older adults and their caregivers in our country.

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

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. Read More

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: 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

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?” 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

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

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

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

Why Getting Online Matters for Diverse Older Adults

Who doesn’t have a smart phone these days? Mobile technology is one of the fastest growing of the new technologies out there. And for many young and middle aged adults, it seems like the laptop is the technology of “yesteryear.” Yet many older adults, especially those over 65, may not own or know how to operate a computer. There’s a large divide between who is “plugged” in and who is not.

Across racial and ethnic groups, young people are more likely to use new technologies than older adults.  For example, even though Hispanic households with middle- and high incomes have high rates of internet usages, older Hispanics are far less likely to use the internet.  Overall, just 35% of Hispanics aged 65 and over own a computer, compared to over 70% of Hispanics overall.

We know diverse older adults endure economic insecurity, hunger, health inequities, and isolation.  We also know that any one of these issues can make life difficult in general.  Is the digital divide not something to be as concerned about?  It is.  The internet is a tool that can also offer solutions. The details of issues like economic insecurity and hunger are not frequently discussed and not well known among those that have not experienced it for themselves. However, the internet (specifically social media) is one way for older adults to expose their shared experiences to a larger audience.  It also allows older adults to escape isolation by finding community online and staying connected to friends and family, even if many miles away.   Read More

Addressing the Needs of LGBT Hispanic Older Adults in the U.S

Two Older LGBT Hispanic men at a SAGE 2011 health fair

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

LGBT Elders: Poverty’s Challenges Worsen With Age

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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

Untold stories of Asian & Pacific Islander LGBT Elders: “I think the need to be accepted overcame their need to be themselves.”

Three things to know as May ends and we look towards June:

  1. May is Older Americans Month.
  2. It’s also Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.
  3. 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

Infographic: LGBT Health, Racial Disparities, and Aging—by the Numbers

Preview. Download the full infographic below.

Preview. Download the full infographic below.

Download the infographic LGBT Health, Racial Disparities, and Aging—By the Numbers, today!

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

StoryCorps: A Transgender Woman’s Journey from Hiding to “Walking in Love”

Alexis Martinez (left) worried that coming out to daughter Lesley as transgender would mean giving up any relationship with her grandchildren. But she needn't have worried.

Alexis Martinez (left) worried that coming out to daughter Lesley as transgender would mean giving up any relationship with her grandchildren. But she needn’t have worried.

Alexis Martinez grew up in a rough neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side in the early 1960s. She knew she was transgender from an early age.Alexis (whose birth name is Arthur) struggled with her identity, as did her family. At 13, she came out as transgender to her mother. Alexis’ mother called the police, who laughed and told her, “You’ve got a fag for a son, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

As a result, Alexis joined a gang and “went as macho as [she] could be, to mask what [she] really was underneath.”

Alexis has a daughter, who accepts her for who she is. Says her daughter Lesley: “You don’t have to apologize. You don’t have to tiptoe. We’re not going to cut you off. And that is something that I’ve always wanted you to, you know, just know—that you’re loved.” 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.

HIV/AIDS is Still an Issue for Older Gay Black Men

In honor of Black History Month, the SAGE Blog will feature a post on LGBT aging in the black community every Thursday during the month of February. February 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, so our first post in the series is on HIV/AIDS in the black community by Ty Martin, Community Liaison at SAGE Harlem.

Ty Martin & SAGE Constituent Sherman Walker

Ty Martin & SAGE Constituent Sherman Walker

I am black.  I am gay.   I am an older adult. 

I am resilient. And so is my community.

 

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.

Continue reading this article>>>

Honoring MLK Day of Service: How One Volunteer Gives Back to Her Community

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.

 

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

LGBT Older Americans Cannot Afford to Go Over the Fiscal Cliff

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

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

A Federal Bill for LGBT Elders

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.

Read my recent editorial in The Huffington Post about this bill’s importance to LGBT elders. Read More

Looking to Harlem – Creating a Safe Space for the Older Black LGBT Community

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.

Read More

An LGBT-Inclusive Older Americans Act

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.

Read More