Funds will help fight profound disparities faced by older adults from racially and ethnically diverse, American Indian and Alaska Native, and/or LGBT+ communities
NEW YORK (May 17, 2021) — The nation faces profound disparities when it comes to equitable access to health and wellness essentials. This is evident in the lived experiences of the more than 17 million U.S. older adults from diverse communities, who will make up 50% of all older Americans by 2050.
COVID-19 has only worsened the inequities for these individuals, leading to increased poverty levels, poor healthcare and living conditions, and a lower quality of life. To combat these challenges, the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) – a leading national advocacy group of six organizations that represent the interests and concerns of racially and ethnically diverse older adults, as well as LGBT+ older people – has submitted a proposal seeking $450 million of the $400 billion allocated in President Biden’s American Jobs Plan toward eldercare.
“We’re excited to see the Biden-Harris Administration prioritizing elder services and care in the American Jobs Plan,” said Lauren Pongan, National Director for the Diverse Elders Coalition. “At the same time, we’re looking to policymakers to invest in expanding care and services for older people from racially and ethnically diverse communities, and LGBT+ elders. With this funding, we have a chance to address some of the longstanding inequities older people in underserved communities face in getting the care and support they need.”
The Diverse Elders Coalition would use the $450 million to support a series of initiatives grounded in the specific realities and needs of the diverse older adult communities. These individuals have suffered from a lifetime of discrimination due to different cultures, identities, languages and customs, leaving many without proper community support systems, in poor health and financially insecure:
American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) Older Adults
- 33% of people residing on Indian reservations do not have running water and one-third don’t have access to electricity.
- 60% of COVID-related deaths in Indian Country were older adults over the age of 65, which is equivalent to losing 233,285 years of tribal history, culture, customs and language.
- Most tribal communities have poverty levels of 50%, while others are as high as 70%.
Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Older Adults
- AAPIs face language barriers, as 60% of Asian American and 25% of Pacific Islander older adults have limited English proficiency (LEP). Southeast Asian Americans (SEAA) in particular have higher rates of LEP than Asian Americans as a whole and other racial groups, with nearly 90% of SEAA speaking a language other than English at home.
- These language barriers can exclude older AAPIs from available healthcare services and employment opportunities, leading to racial discrimination and a generally poorer quality of life.
- Along with higher levels of poverty, older AAPIs also experience health disparities, with significantly higher levels of both acute and chronic illness.
Black and African American Older Adults
- The poverty rate for black older adults is twice as high compared to other senior citizens.
- Black older adults suffer significantly due to the digital divide, as only 30% have broadband at home compared to 51% of white seniors and only 17% have access to smartphones.
- 37% of all elderly COVID hospitalizations were Black seniors, even though they represent only 12% of the 65‐and‐over population.
Hispanic/Latino Older Adults
- 71% of Hispanics speak a language other than English at home.
- Hispanics have the highest uninsured rates of any racial or ethnic group within the United States.
- Latinos were almost twice as likely to face food insecurity than non-Hispanic white individuals, and 17% of Hispanics live at the poverty level.
LGBT+ Older Adults
- One-third of LGBT+ older adults live at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.
- LGBT+ older adults are 3–4 times less likely to have children, and twice as likely to live alone.
- 54% of LGBT+ older adult care recipients receive care from their partner and 24% receive care from a friend.
“Like millions of elders who are part of diverse communities, including LGBT+ older people, the odds are stacked against us. I’ve overcome homelessness and faced discrimination simply for being who I am,” said Lujira Cooper, age 73, who is part of SAGE. “Older people like myself are more likely to face social stigma, poverty, and poor physical and mental health. That’s why whenever there are public policies related to elder services and care, we need legislators to recognize the concerns we face and make sure no elder is invisible.”
The organizations of the Diverse Elders Coalition include: the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA), National Caucus and Center on Black Aging (NCBA), National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), National Indian Council on Aging (NICOA), SAGE (Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders), and Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC). Each organization is uniquely suited to provide care, knowledge, training and programming for diverse older adults as listed in the proposal and address the profound disparities facing diverse older adults today in the United States.
To read the full proposal and learn how the Diverse Elders Coalition will use the funds to positively impact the lives of the more than 17 million diverse older adults in the United States, please visit www.diverseelders.org.
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About the Diverse Elders Coalition
Founded in 2010, the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) advocates for policies and programs that improve aging in our communities as racially and ethnically diverse people; American Indians and Alaska Natives; and lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT) people. The six national organizations of DEC represent a growing majority of millions of older people throughout the country. We have come together to promote policy changes and programmatic solutions that respond to this demographic shift and will remove the barriers facing our communities. We envision a world where all older adults can live full and active lives as they age.