It’s important to remember that not all adults experience aging in the same way. In the social sciences we talk about intersectionality, or the way that different parts of our identity come together to shape our experiences in life. One very important intersection is the intersection of a persons race and age. A persons racial identity shapes the way that they experience aging. Additionally, the stress caused by prejudice and discrimination that a person faces when they are younger can have a negative effect on life expectancy and overall well-being later in life. The American Psychological Association states that “race-related stressors” can negatively impact both their physical and mental health. They continue to expand that on that idea and state that this “occurs when an individual experiences or witnesses racist incidents that evoke social and historical experiences of racism.”
The effects of racism are cumulative throughout a persons life, in other words, the disadvantages add up over the years. Some of the effects of racism, specifically racism against Black people in the US, include limited access to:
- Employment opportunities
- Political Participation
With limited access to these resources the National Center of Elder Abuse (NCEA) finds that Black people may have fewer opportunities to secure wealth for retirement, which leads to a higher reliance on social security income, disability income, or financial support from caregivers.
Additionally, older Black adults are disproportionately affected by financial exploitation (which is the improper use of funds, property, or resources by another individual) when compared to other populations. They are also more vulnerable to stranger-initiated scams or financially-related deceptions.
When it comes to physical health, we find that Black Americans are at an increased risk of chronic health conditions (including mental health conditions), such as:
- Congestive heart failure
- Kidney disease
When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic the trend remains, Black people are more likely to be negatively impacted by the pandemic. As early as May 2020, just a few months into the pandemic in the US, researchers have found that Black households were more likely to have experienced a loss of employment and have household members who did not have enough food to eat in the last 7 days than a white household was.
In addition to that, it has also had different effects on nursing homes, depending on their demographics. According to a study that could be found in the New York Times as well as Psychology Today, “nursing homes with a significant number of Black and Latino residents were twice as likely to be hit be COVID-19 than those where the population is overwhelmingly white.” This can be linked to the fact that predominantly white nursing homes tend to be better resourced.