Stay or go: Growing old in Detroit isn’t easy, but does moving make sense?

Growing old isn’t easy anywhere.

Living among high rates of poverty, crime, addiction and abandonment doesn’t make it any easier.

Neither do shortages of buses and primary care doctors, nor the scarcity of retail and amenities outside of Detroit’s central neighborhoods.

But ask 85-year-old Detroiter Harry Anderson if he thinks growing old in his city is harder than it might be elsewhere, and it’s not quite that simple.

“I imagine it’s about the same everywhere,” Anderson said.

Read the rest of this story in MLive Detroit.

Lack of income hurts some seniors ability to ‘age in place’

Jill Halevan, of Novi, said income is a major concern for seniors in Metro Detroit. She added Detroit, in particular, needs to do more to help seniors who have stayed in the city throughout its decline.

Here’s her feedback:

I work and support the elderly population in Wayne, Oakland, Livingston and Macomb counties. It is the ones who are not poor enough for Medicaid and the MI Choice Waiver, but cannot afford in home supports. They struggle to be able to “Age in Place” as they do not have the resources to allow this to happen for them.

I support a lot of seniors in the Detroit area who live in the “blights” of Detroit but want to remain in their own homes and neighborhoods! They ARE the livelihood of all neighborhoods! Why are we not taking preventative actions and not saying that the seniors are not priority. These are also the same people who are raising their grandchildren. Talk about our future!

As for Detroit, why would we put the very people who are left and want to be in Detroit last on our priority list?

I totally agree with Mr. Jankowski - the need for senior services and support is staring at every municipal in Michigan. Why are we saying that they are not the ones to invest in?

These seniors shop, pay taxes and are Detroit! I have met people who are afraid to leave their homes so they are scrapped while they are gone! They know when someone has passed away in there neighborhoods because the next day their homes have been gutted.

Now, we have investors coming to Detroit to not make it affordable and then charge more than anyone can pay? It is a confusing time right now, but our seniors are active, they buy in their own neighborhood, they WANT to remain in their own neighborhood!

Yes - we need to invest in all people but particularly the ones that have stayed and cared about Detroit all these years!

This post originally appeared in MLive Detroit.

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.

LGBT Detroit WDET NPR Aging

We’re getting older: Vox 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:


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.