From the civil rights movement in the 1960s, to electing the first African American president in 2008, African American senior citizens have been a part of many significant events offering increased opportunities. But, this senior population still faces many struggles like lower quality of life and health issues. Therefore, it is important combat these problems through raising awareness of health risks associated with African American seniors or by educating seniors on their rights.
The Good and the Bad
African American senior citizens have witnessed vast improvements in social and economic status over the past decades. However, the senior population, and the population as a whole, still faces serious struggles and instability, such as low income, lack of financial security and even abuse. A recent report, Severe Financial Insecurity Among African American and Latino Seniors, showed that African American seniors and other minorities are especially at risk for lack of healthcare and living in poverty. These problems include:
- Health costs: Many African American seniors simply cannot afford healthcare and out -of-pocket medical expenses. This creates more senior health problems, such as an increase in diabetes in this group.
- Housing costs: The high housing costs put many African American and other minority seniors at risk for losing their homes, or being sent to a nursing home.
- Lack of savings: Many people in this group do not have the savings in place or the financial resources to cover all of their expenses. Also, many African American seniors continue to live with a lower quality of life despite the awareness and implementation for equal rights.
Senior Abuse More Common
An especially alarming statistic is that African American seniors are more likely to be victims of senior abuse, including mental and emotional abuse, and are more likely to be taken advantage of financially. According to a recent study, senior bullying or abuse to this age group occurs starting around age 60. This includes stealing checks and swindling money from unknowing or confused seniors.
Honor African American Senior Citizens
Despite the increased level of problems that many African American seniors face, there is no difference between the issues this group faces and the issues facing senior citizens as a whole group, regardless of race. One of the best ways to combat the higher levels of senior problems among African Americans is to make sure seniors are aware of what their rights are. One way to bring awareness to African American seniors is to celebrate African American History Month. Every February, African American History Month is a culmination of events that pay tribute to African Americans of all ages.
Here are some ways to make this celebration more personal for senior citizens:
- Plan a special event in your community to raise awareness about older African Americans
- Share information with the public about the risks and needs of this group
- Raise awareness about the abuse and mistreatment to African American seniors
- Educate this group of seniors about their rights, including the definition of abuse
- Encourage seniors to lead group events and participate in helping each other
- Teach about some of the most inspiring African American leaders, both today and in the past
- Share 101 black history facts to encourage empowerment
- Give African Americans quotes to inspire them as they age
- Discuss the history of this population of people as a whole, highlighting the changes in the last two centuries.
Aging with Dignity
As positive changes and increased levels of education are enjoyed by all groups of Americans, including African American seniors, this group can pave the way for a better life for all elderly people.