Whether it’s you, a parent, or a grandparent who’s 50+ years old, it’s important to be aware that racial and ethnic disparities exist and must be addressed. Areas of concern include health, economic security, and livable communities. While it’s important to identify problems, it’s even more crucial to find solutions. This is the premise for AARP’s Disrupting Racial and Ethnic Disparities: Solutions for New Yorkers Age 50+ town hall which took place on January 24 at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City.
AARP, in partnership with Asian American Federation, Hispanic Federation, NAACP, and New York Urban League, has addressed and proposed solutions for African American/Black, Asian American/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic/Latino New Yorkers age 50+ years regarding these disparities. Attendees of the town hall included thought leaders, civic, community and faith-based leaders, elected and appointed officials, academia, and media influencers.
The AARP video below highlights the mission of this important initiative.
The timely report by AARP and its partners reflects the needs of New York State’s ethnic communities. New York’s African American/Black, Asian American/Pacific Islander and Hispanic/Latino populations grew 16% from 2000 to 2016. The 50+ age group of these demographics increased by 30% between 2000 and 2015. Within New York City, these three groups age 50+ account for 62% of New York City’s 50+ population and 33% of New York State’s 50+ population.
Given this growth, an action plan is essential to address these disparities. The policy recommendations and proposed legislative changes aim to provide a more equitable life for 50+ New Yorkers of color, with a positive impact on larger communities overall. When all people are equal, everyone wins.
Racial and Ethnic Disparities Drivers
Racial and ethnic disparities can directly impact the quality of life of those affected today and for generations to come.
The study states that disparities in these communities:
“…make it more difficult to acquire a well-paying job with benefits like a retirement savings plan, leading to lower Social Security and retirement income in older age. Moreover, this lack of opportunity means that it is unduly difficult for 50-plus New Yorkers of color to live in inclusive, livable communities with good schools and where they can afford homes and other assets that they can pass on to their children and grandchildren. Thus, the cycle of inequality is perpetuated, with negative health, economic, and social implications.”
- Access Barriers: The ability to go to a doctor when medical care is needed represents a basic and essential requirement for achieving a quality level of health. Residential segregation, health conditions, mobility, and transportation issues negatively impact people’s ability to access services.
- Affordability Barriers: When people spend a large percentage of their income to care for loved ones, this means fewer dollars to afford other necessities like food and housing. In New York, the average caregiver’s out of pocket costs for caregiving averages 20% of income. For Hispanics, the percentage rises to almost half of income (44%).
- Cultural Barriers: Cultural beliefs, language, and communication problems may lead to patient dissatisfaction, poor comprehension and adherence, and lower quality of care.
- Quality Barriers: Highly segregated nursing facilities and nursing facilities that serve a high proportion of minority patients often have more deficiencies, lower levels of direct care staffing, and lower ratios of registered nurse staffing. These challenges can affect the quality of care people receive.
- Wealth Inequality: New York has the most wealth inequality in the nation. The top 1% of earners are paid 45.4 times more than the bottom 99%. New York ranks 7th in the U.S. as the state with the most unequal wealth based on race and ethnicity.
- Home Ownership: Ethnic adults account for a third of the state’s population. However, only one out of five homeowners in New York State is a person of color. Ethnic homeowners face higher foreclosure rates than non-ethnic homeowners. People of color age 50+ are twice as likely as Whites to pay over half their income on housing.
- Deed Thefts: Deed theft scams, where fraudsters steal people’s homes unbeknownst to them, target older New Yorkers of color.
- SNAP: New York offers a Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for people ages 60+. However, more than 300,000 60+ year old New Yorkers eligible for the program are not enrolled.
- Bank Access: New Yorkers of color age 50+ are far less likely to have bank accounts compared to their white counterparts. On average in New York City neighborhoods of color, there is only one bank branch available for every 10,000 residents. This is significantly lower thn the 3.24 branches for every 10,000 residents in all other NYC neighborhoods.
- Student Loan Debt: Student loan debt disparities disproportioning affect families of color. New York Black and Latino families need to borrow to finance their or their children’s college educations much more than other groups. As a result, these families often must delay or scale back plans for homeownership, saving for retirement, and other financial priorities to pay off student loans.
- Affordable Housing and Transportation: In New York, people of color age 50+ have less access to safe, affordable housing and mobility options (transportation) than their white counterparts. Inferior access to modes of transportation includes subway, rail trains, and stations with elevators.
- Pedestrian Safety: The New York neighborhoods with higher concentrations of people of color have a greater number of pedestrian accidents due to unsafe street crossings.
- Gentrification and Displacement: Cost-burdened communities with New Yorkers age 50+ are more at risk for gentrification and displacement. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines “cost-burdened” as those “who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing” and “may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation, and medical care.”
At the town hall meeting, Marcos Crespo, NY State Assembly District 85, stated, “You must speak up to truly disrupt. We must be agents of change.” The study’s proposed policy solutions strive to disrupt disparities.
- Technology – New York should encourage telehealth, defined as, “a collection of means or methods for enhancing health care, public health, and health education delivery and support using telecommunications technologies.” This includes the development and use of culturally appropriate electronic applications for smartphones, health and wellness applications, and electronic consultations. New York State can achieve these goals by removing legislative and administrative barriers to the employment of these technologies.
- Family Caregiver State Tax Credit – New York should enact a family caregiver state tax credit to help offset the out-of-pocket costs of family caregivers and to recognize their significant contributions that reduce the demand for state-funded services.
- Training – New York State should require cultural and linguistic competency training for all state-licensed health care professionals.
- Long Term Services and Support – New York should establish a Long Term Services and Supports Disparities Task Force, under Governor Cuomo’s Long Term Care Planning Council. This should be led by New York’s Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities Prevention. The purpose would be to facilitate communication, coordination, and collaboration among relevant state agencies and communities of color.
- IRAs – Enact legislation that offers private sector workers in New York the opportunity to open individual retirement accounts (IRA) with low-cost options at their place of employment.
- Usury Law – Preserve New York’s strong usury law at all costs to defend against predatory lending, small-dollar loans, and other
exploitative consumer financial products. New York Usury law states “charging interest of more than 16% per year is civil usury. Further, in New York, charging, taking, or receiving interest of 25% or more is criminal usury.”
- Affordable Loans – Support community development financial institutions (CDFIs) to provide sound and affordable loans to people and
small businesses in ethnic communities.
- Deed Theft Scams – Update New York State laws that address deed theft scams to shield homeowners.
- SNAP Enrollment – Close the gap of unenrolled people of color for the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). New York should offer information about SNAP in multiple languages beyond those required by the State’s language access policies. The State should also conduct outreach and comprehensive screening.
- Student Loan Borrowers – Support the creation of a “Student Loan Ombudsman” and consumer protections to protect borrowers from misleading and predatory practices of student loan services and/or debt consultants.
- Affordable Housing – Make housing affordable and prevent displacement. This can be done through inclusionary zoning and support of Community Land Trusts and property tax exemptions to help protect minorities from gentrification and its ill effects.
- Transportation Accessibility – Increase transit and mobility options by improving accessibility within the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) system.
- Pedestrian Safety -Increase funding for existing state legislation that requires pedestrian safety to be taken into account in new and redesigned streets.
- Accessible Housing – Create accessible options for the aging by supporting local zoning ordinances that facilitate the creation of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), promoting universal design features in new or renovated housing, and expanding funding to lower-income older adults who need to make home modifications to improve accessibility.
The organizations partnering in this groundbreaking study offer many resources both locally and nationally to support those seeking guidance and services. Find out more below, and visit their websites for additional information.
AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) – AARP is the nation’s largest non-profit, non-partisan, social welfare organization. With a membership of over 38 million, AARP is dedicated to empowering Americans ages 50+ years to choose how they live as they age. The organization focuses on health care, employment and income security, and protection from financial abuse. Learn more at AARP.org and AARP NY.
Asian American Federation – The Asian American Federation is a non-profit organization representing a network of community service agencies with a focus in health and human services, education, economic development, civic participation, and social justice. Its mission is to raise the influence and well-being of the pan-Asian American community. This is achieved through research, policy advocacy, public awareness, and organizational development. Learn more at www.aafederation.org.
Hispanic Federation – Hispanic Federation is a nonprofit organization that seeks to support Hispanic families and strengthens Latino institutions. Targeted areas include education, health, immigration, civic engagement, economic empowerment, and the environment. The organization focuses on three sectors of service: membership services/grantmaking, advocacy, and community programs. Learn more at hispanicfederation.org.
NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) – NAACP is a nonprofit organization with a mission to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. Areas of focus include economic sustainability, education, health, public safety and criminal justice, voting rights and political representation, and expanding youth and young adult engagement. Learn more at NAACP.org and NYSNAACP.org.
New York Urban League (NYUL) – NYUL is a nonprofit organization seeking to enable African Americans and other underserved ethnic communities to secure a first-class education, economic self-reliance, and equal respect of their civil rights through programs, services, and advocacy. Its vision is to provide opportunities for members of all communities. Areas of focus include access to education, employment, and a living environment that fosters mutual respect. Learn more at www.nyul.org.
The purpose of the Disrupting Racial and Ethnic Disparities initiative is to ensure New York people of color have the same choices as others when it comes to health, economic security, and livable communities. Through the proposal of initial policy recommendations, AARP and its partners aim to address the disparities at hand through future legislative action. Follow the discussion on social media through the hashtag #DisruptDisparities.
Disrupting Racial and Ethnic Disparities Town Hall Partners and Panelists
Alicia Georges, AARP, President-Elect
Elaine Ryan, Vice President, State Advocacy & Strategy
Gerri Madrid-Davis, Director, Financial Security & Consumer Affairs
Edna Kane-Williams, Senior Vice President of Multicultural Leadership
Yvette Peña, Vice President, Multicultural Leadership
Daphne Kwok, Vice President, Multicultural Leadership, AAPI
Coralette Hannon, Senior Legislative Representative
Beth Finkel, AARP NY State Director
Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director, Asian American Federation
Jose Calderon, President, Hispanic Foundation
Hazel Dukes, President, NAACP New York State Conference
Arva Rice, President & CEO, NY Urban League
Hazel Dukes, President, NAACP, New York State Conference
Frankie Miranda, Hispanic Federation
Arva Rice, President & CEO, NY Urban League
Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director, Asian American Federation
Jesse Hamilton, Senator, New York State
Yuh-Line Niou, Assemblymember, New York State Assembly District 65
Marcos Crespo, Assemblymember, New York State Assembly District 85