Green House Blog

Disparties, Racism & Ageism Amid COIVD-19

The Elevate Eldercare podcast this week is most timely given the headlines concerning protests about social injustice in Wisconsin. Susan Ryan, Green House Senior Director, interviewed Karyne Jones, the president & CEO of the National Caucus and Center on Black Aging (NCBA). It was amazing the wide variety of topics they covered – everything from COVID-19 and the health disparities that exist among people of color to the devastating impact of social isolation, our shared humanity, and implicit bias.

For those of you are not familiar with NCBA they are the preeminent national organization on issues impacting African Americans age 50 & over. They have three areas of focus: employment, health and wellness and housing. I was struck by Karyne’s description of their mission to provide affordable housing and their philosophy with health and wellness. Many of their concepts match the work we do at The Green House Project. We want Green House homes to be available to all regardless of their ability to pay. We believe elders should direct the life they live in the home and the importance of their voice at the table. In fact, NCBA was established 50 years ago as a result of leaders from a few African American nursing homes who wanted the voice of black communities included in the creation of the Older Americans Act. President Nixon agreed and their successful participation in that work made them decide they should form an organization to address all kinds of issues that affect older African Americans and older poor people who want to improve their life – thus, NCBA was formed.

And while none of us like the pandemic, for Karyne and their organization it has shined a light on the health disparities for those in poor, racial communities. In terms of the issues around police brutality she explained that racism, – and classism are things they have dealt with over the years. The good thing now, she explained, is that people are asking NCBA for ideas, on how can they address the problems – and she said, “we welcomed that”.

Both Marla and I teach a class that discusses how important self-awareness and self-management are to each person. What are the biases we might have? What judgements do we hold? So, it wasn’t a surprise to me that Marla took at special interest in the discussion of implicit bias. It’s not a term we all use, and the information is good to have during these times, especially if you are looking to learn more about yourself. Marla shared information on a unique graph by a doctor entitled “Becoming Anti-Racist”.  Take a look at the graph and assess yourself. Be honest and take this opportunity to grow!

Karyne also talked about our need to help others and stated, “It’s our humanity to make sure that we help people”. To me that is such a beautiful phrase. What better feeling can you possibly have than when you offer your assistance to someone who could use your skills or talents – it’s such a wonderful gift. When you have one community suffering, she went on to say, it drains another community. There’s an opportunity for us to shift from being independent to understanding our interdependence of one another. Some might consider that a real paradigm shift for our humanity, to embrace compassion, to be empathic and support other people, I believe we are capable. I feel Shahbazim in a Green House home do it every day. They give to the elders and the elders give back. There is such a wonderful “interdependence” in the home.

One final word about NCBA – they have one awesome newsletter. Seriously, it is filled with such good information, it’s worth taking a look at it. Hope you’ll listen to both podcasts, Elevate Eldercare with Susan and Karyne Jones and Let Me Say This About That with Marla and me. Enjoy learning and growing!

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