Race, Age and Healthcare

Over the past three decades, there has been a growing emphasis in the field of gerontology and aging studies to better understand issues related to diversity within and across racial and ethnic groups. This has resulted in a clear need for further scientific advances in the study of older adults  from diverse populations. Your race and your age can impact your health and your healthcare.

Interesting Population Trends

According to the Administration for Community Living (ACL) in 2019, there were 54.1 million Americans age 65 and over and 6.5 million age 85 and over. The population age 65 and older is expected to increase to 94.7 million in 2060. The population age 85 and older is expected to more than double to 19 million during the same period. D

The African American population age 65 is projected to grow to 12.1 million by 2060. The number of African Americans aged 85 and older is projected to increase from 511,540 in 2019 to 2.2 million in 2060. This is an example for the immediate need to study and address the needs of ALL aging groups.

What is Weathering?

Discrimination and marginalization can also slowly impact one’s health, causing those who are at the receiving end of discriminatory attitudes to age or even die prematurely.

The effect of premature biological aging and associated health risks as a result of being repeatedly exposed to social adversity and marginalization is called weathering.

Medical student, Joel Bervell, recently shared his study on surprising myths about race that are prevalent in medicine. During Covid, he noticed the popular use of home pulse oximeters to help someone determine if they needed to go to the hospital. But apparently the devices can overestimate oxygen levels on people with darker skin thus more likely signaling to a black person their level is normal when it was low, and they should seek medical help.

Bervell continued to study how race can impact medical care. “There are literally equations that embed racism (in medicine), and depending on your race, it will impact your care,” he says. “Not because of the doctor per se, but because it’s literally built into an algorithm.”

Thankfully things seem to be changing. In 2020 the American Medical Association “said that racism is a threat to public health.” Families and care providers should be aware of these issues and do more to make sure the care is appropriate for everyone taking their age, race, and ethnicity into consideration.

At Hurley Elder Care Law our team is committed to helping our clients find the best care possible. Our care coordinators work with our families to teach them how to advocate for their loved ones. Call us to discuss your elder law questions at 404-843-0121.

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