Story at a glance:

  • Diverse Elders Coalition is seeking $450 million in proposed legislation to prioritize elder services and care, especially for Black senior citizens.
  • Black seniors made up nearly 40 percent of all elderly COVID-19 hospitalizations, even though they represent only 12 percent of the 65‐and‐over population.
  • People 60 and older will outnumber infants and toddlers under the age of 5.

The Diverse Elders Coalition is seeking $450 million in proposed legislation that aligns with President Biden’s calls for a “human infrastructure bill” to prioritize elder services and care, especially for Black senior citizens. 

The President of the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging (NCBA) and one of the founding members of the Diverse Elders Coalition told Changing America that Black seniors are in distress and need more financial assistance and attention from this current administration.


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“Traditionally, the health care system has not been fair or accessable,” President Karyne Jones of NCBA said. “We don't get the same treatment as others. We are plagued with not having health insurance or being under insured, and we deal with a health care system that isn’t friendly to understanding or caring for our issues.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the elderly and devastated the minority population, but it serves as an example to what Jones is referring to when stating the government needs to focus more on Black senior care.

“Due to a lifetime of discrimination, they’ve faced increased poverty levels, atrocious healthcare and living conditions, leading to an overall lower quality of life — not to mention COVID-19 has only made these profound disparities worse,” NCBA wrote in a statement to Changing America.

Jones cited a report from the World Health Organization (WHO), stating that between 2015 and 2050 the world’s proportion of people 60 and older will nearly double from 12 percent to 22 percent, and by 2020, people 60 and older will outnumber infants and toddlers under the age of 5.

The Diverse Elders Coalition also said that though representing about 9 percent of the senior citizen population, 21 percent of Black seniors live below the federal poverty level.

The Brookings Institution reported that Black seniors made up nearly 40 percent of all elderly COVID-19 hospitalizations, despite representing 12 percent of those 65 and older.

“The aging of baby boomers means that within just a couple decades, older people are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history,” Jonathan Vespa, a demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau, said. “By 2035, there will be 78.0 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.4 million under the age of 18.”

Jone said that by 2050, 10 million Black elders will consist of 11 percent of the U.S. senior citizen population, making her campaign for equal senior living a Civil Rights movement.

To make matters worse, Pew Research shows that 30 percent of Black seniors have access to broadband internet, which pales in comparison to 50 percent of white seniors. Less than 20 percent of them have smartphones.  

This digital divide hurts the Black senior community because some health care organizations moved to telehealth services assuming people are equipped with devices that can send messages and receive notifications.

The assumption could leave poor, Black seniors unable to shop for groceries, pick up prescriptions or go to the doctor.


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Published on Jul 20, 2021