Over the past few decades, African American senior citizens have seen tremendous improvements in their social and economic status. However, this growing population still faces a great deal of instability related to health, finances, and housing. A recent Journal of Black Psychology study about the resiliency and disproportional optimism of this population concluded that perspectives differed greatly by geographic location. The most common challenges faced by elderly African Americans in California include:
- Healthcare costs
- Affordable housing options
- Loss of homes to mortgage foreclosures
- Lack of financial savings
- More frequent physical senior abuse
- Risk of being taken advantage of financially
- Falls, disability, and hunger
- Lack of culturally-enriching community services
Bay Area funder, the California Wellness Foundation, is well-versed in the challenges facing elderly African-Americans today, and it's been pouring grant money into advocacy programs to assist this vulnerable population. The foundation recently awarded a $150,000, two-year grant to the University of Southern California to advocate for the health and well-being of African American older adults. (Read California Wellness Foundation: Bay Area Grants).
This grant will fund advocacy programs at the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging, housed at USC Social Work. The institute recognizes that minority groups are the fastest-growing segment in the United States' aging population, and that these groups face higher mortality rates for cancer, diabetes, and heart conditions. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Minority Health, "83,000 deaths each year are attributable to racial and ethnic health disparities."
According to USC reports, 29% of African Americans and 27% of Latinos experience food insecurity, compared with 11.6% of white seniors. Although elderly African Americans are less frequently diagnosed with depression than other races, this may be attributable to cultural preferences. Researchers at Columbia University concluded that “African Americans reported greater distrust of physicians and poorer patient-physician communication than do white patients. Communication difficulties may contribute to lower rates of clinical detection of depression because the diagnosis of depression depends to a considerable degree on communication of subjective distress.”
But on December 18, 2013, the California Wellness Foundation announced that 72 grants totaling $8 million were approved for funding to assist the healthcare needs of Californians who remain uninsured under the Affordable Care Act. With the uncertain state of healthcare in America in the days ahead, it's a good thing that USC secured this $150,000 grant when it did.