FEBRUARY 13, 1995 VOLUME 2, NUMBER 32
As mentioned in previous Elder Law Issues, the Arizona White House Conference on Aging held in Phoenix two weeks ago dealt with issues facing the full White House Conference on Aging when it meets in May. Arizona’s delegation dealt with several issues expected to dominate the national aging agenda.
Problems of “Special” Populations
Of course, elderly citizens may also belong to minority or disadvantaged groups. Of particular concern to the Arizona White House Conference on Aging were the specific problems encountered by four subgroups:
- Ethnic and racial minorities
- Physically disabled,
- Developmentally disabled,
- Homeless, and
Approximately one-quarter of all citizens belongs to a minority ethnic group. Elderly minority group members may suffer from double (or even triple or quadruple) jeopardy. In addition to the problems shared by all elderly citizens, the ethnic elderly are less likely to be home owners, are more likely to have transportation problems, and may find language and cultural barriers to securing services.
Our increasingly mobile society may cause special problems for the ethnic elderly. Divorce rates, changes in family structures (including increased frequency of grandparent custody and visitation disputes) and elder abuse (including financial abuse) may work special emotional and financial hardships for ethnic minorities.
In Arizona, Native Americans face special problems. State and Federal disputes over responsibility for services has left an especially needy population vulnerable.
Older citizens with developmental disabilities may face many of the same problems. Their problems are compounded by the fact that the aging services network is unfamiliar with their needs, and is strained by the additional demands imposed by this special population.
Physical disabilities are increasingly common among the elderly. Among the most elderly (those 85 and older), 62% of women and 46% of men need help at home or are living in a nursing home. Physical barriers are even more limiting to the elderly physically disabled than to their younger counterparts.
Homelessness is increasingly common among the elderly. Particularly the elderly mentally ill, who in previous decades would have been housed in institutions, may now be displaced.
Veterans as a group are getting older, and medical programs and facilities designated for their care are not geared to meet their changing needs. Only 10% of qualified veterans use VA facilities, yet overcrowding and long waiting periods are endemic.
[Next issue: Financial Security Issues]