Let us remember that February is Black History Month, and for nearly fifty years we have marked Black History Month by recognizing and honoring the contributions and achievements of Black Americans. Black History Month is a time to celebrate and highlight the wide-ranging roles so many Black Americans have played in our country’s history. We reflect on the contributions of African Americans and how important it is for all of us to make our communities more equitable and just.
Also, let us remember that there are currently more than 4 million African Americans over the age of 65… with a projected growth of about 12 million by 2060. Like the general population of Seniors, African American Seniors are living longer. However, unlike their White counterparts, “African American Seniors experience significant health disparities, including lower life expectancies and an increased risk of chronic health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, dementia, stroke, and cancer. In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in the impact of racism on the quality of life of African Americans, sparked in part by the Black Lives Matter movement. Research indicates that African Americans—young and old—experience subtle and overt forms of racism. African American Seniors, however, have also experienced cumulative race related stressors that negatively impact their physical and mental health.” 1
For African American Seniors, exposure to cumulative experiences of racism has resulted in limited access to resources such as education, employment, health care, housing, and political participation, contributing to health disparities and increased rates of mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and dementia.” 2
We need to be sensitive to our African American Senior brothers and sisters and offer them understanding and empathy. For African Americans, the effects of racism are felt daily. Racism also intersects with other forms of discrimination, including ageism, classism, sexism, ableism, and heterosexism. All Seniors should aim to understand the lens through which individuals view their experiences.
Recently, in pondering Black History Month, Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King, said: “The Transatlantic Slave Trade and Jim Crow aren’t “Black History” but European, American and World History. Our history is about a people with roots and hope, who suffered and challenged these evils as multi-faceted, dynamic, diverse beings. + Black History includes Black Joy.” Let’s remember this Black Joy as we celebrate Black History Month for people of all ages and races.
- See: The Cochran Firm, Race, Sex & Age Discrimination
- Adomakoy, Frances (2018) African-American Older Adults and Race-Related Stress: How Aging and Health Care Providers Can Help, American Psychological Association, Office of Ageing