May is Older Americans Month. It’s also Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. As the National Coordinator of the Diverse Elders Coalition, I am honored to work alongside many diverse aging advocates, including leaders in the field of AAPI aging.
Partnering with our member organizations, the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA) and the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center (SEARAC), I have become very intimate with the daily realities of AAPI elders and their loved ones. I’ve learned many lessons along the way, such as the silence of AAPI elders who identify as LGBT, to why the “model minority” myth is damaging to the AAPI elder community.
In fact (and here is the reveal!), the Diverse Elders Coalition is re-launching our website in just a few short weeks (tentatively scheduled for Monday, May 19). I’ll keep some of the updates a surprise, but I can tell you there will be a new storytelling feature that allows our readers (i.e. you all) to share your aging stories. At the same time, there is a new section that allows readers to explore some of our most intimate and personal stories, from losing a loved one, to highlighting the poverty that exists within our communities to sharing some of our happiest moments.
With the new diverseelders.org, one of the most exciting updates is the ability to easily find and learn about the specific issues that exist in our communities without having to leave our site. You’ll still be able to learn about the stories and issues of diverse elders as a whole, but there will be the ability to narrow your search if you wanted to learn more about AAPI or Hispanic elders, for example.
There will be web portals devoted to our communities (i.e. AAPI Elders) that centralize the most important information, while at the same time highlighting relevant stories, blog posts and resources. This will allow readers to get a robust and more accurate picture of our different communities.
The new diverseelders.org is tentatively scheduled to launch on May 19. Until then, here is a sneak peak of some of the information you will find on the AAPI web portal:
DEBUNKING THE ‘MODEL MINORITY’ MYTH—WE ARE AN INCREDIBLY DIVERSE COMMUNITY
The model minority myth has always been damaging to the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) elder community because it represents an oversimplified version of the incredibly diverse community. AAPIs are often seen as a minority group with higher income, higher education, lower unemployment, and better health. However, AAPIs represent an incredibly diverse segment of our population with unique challenges.
Asian American and Pacific Islanders represent one of the fastest growing populations of older adults in the United States. Over the next 50 years, the number of AAPIs aged 65 and older is expected to grow more than 350%, from 1.6 million to 7.3 million people. Chinese Americans are the largest Asian ethnic group aged 65 years and older, followed by Filipinos and Japanese. Approximately 85% of AAPIs aged 65 years and older are foreign-born, and only 15% of AAPI elders speak English at home. According to NAPCA’s recent national survey of AAPI-serving community-based organizations (CBOs), three priority issues facing AAPI elders are health, economic security, and language access. Here are three of the biggest challenges facing AAPI elders today:
AAPI elders are also at higher risk for Hepatitis B, which can lead to liver cancer. Approximately 1 in 12 AAPIs are living with chronic Hepatitis B, and the death rate from Hepatitis B among AAPIs is 7 times greater than rates among whites. Tragically, data also show that older Asian American women have the highest suicide rate of all women over age 65 in the U.S.
Economic, linguistic and cultural challenges in accessing health care services create additional barriers for elders in need.
In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, the Diverse Elders Coalition is featuring stories relevant to AAPI older adults (their successes, their struggles, their history) during May. A new story will be shared every Thursday with additional posts shared throughout the month. Be sure to visit diverseelders.org regularly during the month of May.