At ECDOL, we feel it is vital to ensure that anyone seeking assistance with senior housing is treated fairly, with integrity and care.
Therefore, we support Black Lives Matter and its efforts to improve black people’s lives by ending discriminatory practices and the ongoing violence against black communities. Systemic racism has become pervasive in many ways, including how our elders are treated and cared for at the end of their lives.
No one deserves anything less than compassion, particularly when they are dependent on others. It’s crucial to raise awareness of these uncomfortable issues so that change can begin.
What is Black Lives Matter?
Black Lives Matter is a decentralized political and social movement advocating for non-violent civil disobedience against racially motivated violence toward black people. This scope encompasses abuse, neglect, and discrimination, which prevent black people from receiving equal and adequate treatment in all aspects of society, including healthcare.
Black Lives Matter, also referred to as BLM, originated in 2013 as a response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman. The movement began with the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media platforms to raise awareness of the injustice. It gained further traction and attention in 2014 after the shooting of Michael Brown led to protests and unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.
BLM activists were heavily involved in raising awareness of this injustice and have continued to demonstrate against numerous black people’s deaths since then.
The originators of the hashtag expanded its network to over 30 local chapters by 2016. The movement gained momentum and developed into a global organization in the UK, the US, and Canada. Black Lives Matter has gained more favor and attention recently, as the murder of George Floyd sparked a national outcry and drew enough attention that systemic racism could no longer be ignored as a national phenomenon.
What is Systemic Racism?
Systemic racism, though ignored heavily before now, exists and is well-documented. But until recently, it hasn’t been getting much attention. Since George Floyd, BLM has received much more support and attention and has been increasingly active in shedding light on all aspects of systemic racism.
We believe that senior care is one of many areas where this light has been sorely needed. Systemic racism is also referred to as institutional racism and is a form of racism embedded as a regular practice within society or an organization. It can lead to discrimination in criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power, and education, among many other issues. This practice is so accepted and normalized that most people are unaware it exists. Another interesting characteristic of systemic racism is that even when people are aware of the phenomenon and do not support it, they may unwittingly engage in it. This is how pervasive systemic racism has become.
There’s ample evidence that clearly shows how black people have been intentionally marginalized and impoverished since being “freed” from slavery.
For example, “Black Codes” were restrictive laws designed to limit black people’s freedom and ensure their availability as a cheap labor force after slavery was abolished during the Civil War. Though the Union victory had given some 4 million slaves their freedom, the question of freed blacks’ status in the postwar South was still very much unresolved. Under black codes, many states required blacks to sign yearly labor contracts; if they refused, they risked being arrested, fined, and forced into unpaid labor.
Systemic Racism and Economics
One of the most subtle ways black people have been kept at a severe disadvantage is through housing and lending disparities. African American neighborhoods were notoriously “redlined,” a practice of denying loans in areas due to the perceived high-risk of defaulting.
Whites would receive these same loans, allowing them to move and develop. Businesses likewise move to where the money is, eventually following the white population into suburban areas and away from inner cities. This practice began as early as the 1930s and was encouraged through the 1960s by programs like the Federal Housing Agency, which enabled cash flow to the banks making these decisions. These financial impacts spread beyond housing, affecting things like education and, in turn, future generations’ economic status.
In 1968, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) was signed into law to eliminate the effects of state-sanctioned racial segregation. But it failed to change the status quo as the United States remained nearly segregated as in the 1960s. A newer discriminatory lending practice was subprime lending in the 1990s. Lenders targeted high-interest subprime loans to low-income and minority neighborhoods who might be otherwise eligible for fair-interest prime loans. Numerous audit studies conducted in the 1980s in the United States found consistent evidence of discrimination against African Americans and Hispanics in metropolitan housing markets.
There have been political attempts since the 1990s to rectify this issue and improve the condition of racist markets and lending practices, but the problem has persisted. In 2014 New Jersey’s largest savings bank was accused of steering clear of minority neighborhoods and favoring whites in granting loans and mortgages. It was found that of the approximately 1900 mortgages made that year, only 25 went to Black applicants. Though the company denied any racial bias, it settled for $33 million in restitution with the Justice Department, the largest settlement in history won by the agency.
Senior Care and Racism
When most people think of racism in senior care, they get images of an evil caretaker abusing and belittling a patient. While these targeted instances certainly happen and are atrocious, systemic racism may have an even more significant impact on seniors’ lives. As the over-65 population increases in the next few decades, much of that increase will be due to racial and ethnic minorities’ aging. In 2015, about 22% of those over 65 were members of minority groups; by 2050, that will increase to 39%. We also know that there is a larger and accelerating gap between the median net worth of African-American that of white families, in addition to significant income disparities based on race.
The Great Recession of the 2000s severely impacted the finances of the generation that should be retiring now. While the recession slammed most seniors, people of color were especially hard-hit; with minimal assets and resources to cushion the blow, many are falling deeper and deeper into the well of financial insecurity. More than half (52 percent) of black seniors are economically insecure.
Today’s black seniors face an accumulation of disadvantages that have prevented them from attaining wealth and assets. This means that as they become unable to work due to age, they cannot meet their daily living expenses. Many of them must rely on their adult children and family members to care for them.
But this further burden’s the next generation and impoverishes them, carrying the burden down the line.
The effect of systemic racism on senior care may not be immediately obvious because it doesn’t show itself. Assisted living facilities and nursing homes are whitewashed. Aging minorities like black people have fewer choices about how and where to receive long term care because they cannot afford many of the options available to whites. To make matters worse, blacks and other minorities are more likely to live in facilities with fewer resources, lower staff nursing ratios, and lower quality indicators. So the only ones that are constantly reminded of this issue are the black community.
Nursing homes with higher percentages of minority residents receive more citations for violating health care and safety standards. A Minnesota study also found that quality of life scores was lower for residents in nursing homes where a higher proportion of residents were minorities. In other words, black people are likely to receive lower-quality nursing home care because they tend to live in nursing homes that provide lower-quality care. It’s what they can afford.
In the next 25 years, the number of people older than 65 will double. The average life expectancy is expected to rise to 110 by 2030. This means that more people will live longer, and as the number of senior people rises, the need for long-term care and aging-in-place services will increase.
In 2015, about 22% of people over 65 were members of minority groups. By 2050, that will increase to 39%. So, there will be even more blacks in need of housing and assisted living services and even fewer resources if we continue at this rate.
There are possible solutions to the issue, but they all revolve around understanding systemic racism and action to end it now. No one thing will fix a problem that’s been created over generations to stifle an entire population intentionally. But increasing Medicaid reimbursements is one way to get started. This would immediately inject income into facilities that primarily care for lower-income patients, ideally improving the quality of care and capacity of such places. Combine this with employee education about racism and zero-tolerance policies. We can at least begin to imagine a higher quality of care within many facilities that could use it.
But the bigger picture will be improving the overall quality of life of black people and other minorities by evening out the economic disparity and paying restitution where necessary to those who can still benefit from them; our nation’s senior minority population. They deserve a system that supports them and gives compassions instead of all it’s taken over the decades. We support Black Lives Matter because they are tackling this subject head-on.
By shedding light in the first place, we have become aware of the problem as a society. Now that we are aware, education and action must occur. BLM educates America about the injustices being perpetrated on blacks because no one else has done it for them. Now, we must act.
Additional Facts and Statistics
Just eight percent of African-American seniors are economically secure, meaning they have adequate resources to maintain a secure standard of living for the remainder of their lives.
Eighty-three percent of African-American senior households have insufficient retirement assets to last throughout their expected life spans.
Sixty-two percent of African-American and households spend 30 percent or more of their incomes on housing expenses.
At least 40 percent of African-American senior households are renters or have no home equity at all, leaving them insecure concerning home equity. In comparison, this is true for just 20 percent of older white households. Additionally, housing segregation remains a prime reason why families of color build less home equity over time than white households.