Aging Across Cultures

This panel looks at the unique issues and areas affecting various cultures and some of the solutions to these unique issues. Craig speaks with the Executive Director of Bridging Communities Inc. Phyllis Edwards, Social Services Director for ACCESS Amne Darwish-Talab and Senior Resource Advocate for South Eastern Michigan Indians, Inc Karen Tomalis-Lloyd about the unique needs and concerns of various cultures’ elders.

The Issues Facing An Aging LBGT Population: Aging Together

Photo: Left: Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU and the LGBT Older Adults Coalition. Right: Charles Alexander, Between the Lines columnist, local artist, board member of the Scarab Club and retired Detroit Public Schools administrator.



“Growing older is a challenge,” says Charles Alexander, 78. “There used to be a saying, ‘Nobody wants you when you’re old and gray.’ And in sense, the saying these days is, ‘No one wants you when you’re old and gay.’ ”

Continuing our look at older adults and the issues they face in Detroit, metro Detroit and the state, we turn our eye toward the older LGBT population. Of the 39 million Americans that are 65 years of age or older, it is estimated that 1.75 to 4 million of them identify as LGBT, according to the Administration on Aging. This population is expected to double by 2030.

The issues facing the older adult population are as diverse as the population itself. But for the older LGBT adults, there are some unique issues to consider that include survivor and spousal benefits as well as potential — and legal — discrimination.

To discuss these topics we spoke with Jay Kaplan, ACLU staff attorney and a part of the LGBT Older Adults Coalition; and Charles Alexander, 78, a columnist for Between The Lines, a local artist and retired Detroit Public Schools Administrator.

For the older adult LGBT population, there are a few main issues that they immediately face.

“When you look at the demographics of LGBT older adult population, they’re less likely to have family members or children who can take care of them when they become ill,” Kaplan says. “They are more likely to have to rely on outside services like nursing homes or long-term care facilities. And so they’re subject to, many times, discriminatory policies or laws that exist in society, as well as attitudes that we see. And for many LGBT older adults they fear having to rely on those services because they fear that they will be discriminated against and for some of them who have been out for many years they believe or the reality is they have to go back in the closet. They can’t be who they are because they are afraid they are not going to be able to receive these services.”

To help mitigate this issue, Kaplan says the LGBT Older Adult Coalition has a grant to work with three Area Agency on Aging groups to train call operators on LGBT cultural competencies.

“It’s awful to finally be able to live your life and then to hide a very integral part of your identity,” Kaplan says. “One of the things we’ve been working very hard with the LGBT Older Adults Coalition is to increase, or even to start with a sense of LGBT cultural competency from senior providers. And we recently got a grant to work with three of the Area Agencies on Aging to train their call operators in LGBT cultural competencies so people will be more willing to access those services. A lot of times LGBT older adults won’t even access the senior services that are even available because they fear that discrimination; they fear that rejection.

Alexander says he came out of the closet in 1956 and at that time you had to have a nickname, you didn’t tell anyone anything about your background, you kept everything really close. He says it was all about protecting your identity. From 1956 to 2014, Alexander says, “To see the changes that have come about is truly amazing.”

However when it comes to marriage and survivor and spousal benefits, the LGBT community is still fighting that fight. There are now 19 states that recognize same-sex marriages. Michigan is one of 31 that doesn’t.

The LGBT population is not eligible for these types of benefits for partners. “(Michigan does) not recognize marriages, legal marriages between same sex couples, if they happen in other jurisdictions, we don’t permit same sex couples to get married in the state of Michigan,” says Kaplan. “So you’re not able to access spousal benefits or survivor benefits. … Under Michigan law, those relationships don’t exist. The two people are strangers unto themselves.”

Aging Together is a summer-long project between MLive Detroit, WDET 101.9FM Detroit and Model D Media that explores the issues of older adults in Detroit, Southeast Michigan and the state.

We’re getting older: Vox

Vox.com put together 21 charts that tell us how our country is changing. They say:

The US is a big, complicated place that has undergone some big changes over its 238 years, and even in the last few decades. Here are 21 charts that explain what life is like today in the US — who we are, where we live, how we work, how we have fun, and how we relate to each other.

Chart No. 21 is this: “We’re getting older”.

The Baby Boomers have only just started retiring, and they will help continue to grow the elderly share of the population in the coming decades. But it’s not just that population bulge that has made the American population older; extending life expectanices have helped drive this trend as well. According to the latest data from the CDC, as of 2010, the US life expectancy at birth was 78.7 years, up from 78.5 in 2009. However, those gains haven’t been even; women have gained more than men from health advances, and it’s only women in certain parts of the country.

The chart:

image

Here’s the full piece.

What Do Older Adults In Detroit Want? We Speak With Two As Part Of Our Aging Together Project

Left to right: Roy Adams, 70; Mary Ida Bailey, 64; MLive photographer Katie Bailey.

Today, Craig speaks with MLive photographer Katie Bailey and two seniors from the St. Patrick Senior Center in Detroit. Mary Ida Bailey and Roy Adams both share their concerns experiences as members of Detroit’s elderly population.

Katie Bailey also put together a lovely portrait series of senior from St. Pat’s. You can view that here.

The Graying Of Michigan Is Tied To The State’s Economic Decline

A new study predicts that Michigan’s senior population will grow significantly over the next few years. The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments says senior populations are increasing throughout the U.S. but the grown is especially pronounced in Michigan. The associate research director at Wayne State University’s Institutes for Gerontology, Thomas Jankowski, says the graying of Michigan is tied to the state’s economic decline.

“Because Michigan has lost population due to the economy, it looks like the older population, as a proportion of the overall population, is actually going to be higher than they initially thought it was, mostly because many working age people have left the state.”

Jankowski says counties will have to adapt to a shift towards an older workforce. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says he wants to establish a senior’s service department but cannot until the city’s finances are under control.


Aging Together is a summer-long project between MLive Detroit, WDET 101.9FM Detroit and Model D Media that explores the issues of older adults in Detroit, Southeast Michigan and the state.

Multiple generations of homeless Detroiters find stability in recently rehabbed Bell Building

At 72, she has finally been granted her independence to age gracefully on her own terms, through the housing first program at the Neighborhood Service Organization's (NSO) Bell Building in Detroit near Highland Park.

"You see, I have my own apartment, and I can just stay in there when I am not really sociable," Neal says. "I can turn my TV on and close my door. And I don’t have to be bothered with anybody."

Built in 1929, the iconic 255,000 square-foot Bell Building was acquired by the NSO in 2011 with the use of a series of grants. The building was remodeled to accommodate 155 apartments for the chronically homeless and mentally ill, like Neal. NSO uses the housing first approach to battle homelessness — which means to provide housing before mental health needs.

"It’s best if I stay by myself. That way I keep myself out of trouble," Neal says.

Read the full story from Model D Media here.

Are we prepared? Senior population expected to skyrocket, even in shrinking Detroit
Sometime in the next few years, the number of people over the age of 65 in southeast Michigan is expected to surpass the number of residents 18 and under.
“I don’t think that has happened before in human history,” said Thomas Jankowski, associate research director at Wayne State University’s Institute of Gerontology, citing population figures from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.
“Overall population will stay relatively stable, but the number of younger folks is going to decrease as they age out of their age group, and the number of older folks is going to increase dramatically.”
And that means local governments will have to brace for skyrocketing expectations for accommodating larger senior populations, ranging from improvements in housing and transit options to expansion of recreation and health programming, said Jankowski.
The growth of senior populations is taking place around the nation, but the proportions appear especially pronounced in Michigan.
Residents over the age of 65 are expected to make up about 23.9 percent of the region’s population by 2040, compared to about 13 percent currently, according to SEMCOG. The percentage of seniors is also expected to rise nationally, but only to 19.6 by 2040.
FULL STORY

Are we prepared? Senior population expected to skyrocket, even in shrinking Detroit

Sometime in the next few years, the number of people over the age of 65 in southeast Michigan is expected to surpass the number of residents 18 and under.

“I don’t think that has happened before in human history,” said Thomas Jankowski, associate research director at Wayne State University’s Institute of Gerontology, citing population figures from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

“Overall population will stay relatively stable, but the number of younger folks is going to decrease as they age out of their age group, and the number of older folks is going to increase dramatically.”

And that means local governments will have to brace for skyrocketing expectations for accommodating larger senior populations, ranging from improvements in housing and transit options to expansion of recreation and health programming, said Jankowski.

The growth of senior populations is taking place around the nation, but the proportions appear especially pronounced in Michigan.

Residents over the age of 65 are expected to make up about 23.9 percent of the region’s population by 2040, compared to about 13 percent currently, according to SEMCOG. The percentage of seniors is also expected to rise nationally, but only to 19.6 by 2040.

FULL STORY