Mansur Shaheen | Feb 9, 2021
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) partnered with Illinois racial justice groups to launch a “disrupt disparities” effort across the state. The multi-year effort will address racial disparities within older age cohorts in health care access and economic security.
The AARP hopes to address the disproportionate number of older Black, Latino and Asian American seniors who have died of COVID-19 within the state. They will work with state legislators over the coming years to address the issues they lay out in their plan.
Cook county, which includes Chicago, has been one of the hardest hit places in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 460,000 of the state’s 1.1 million total cases have been recorded in the northeast county. Almost half of the state’s 21,000 deaths have occurred in the county as well.
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The county has a majority-minority ethnic makeup, with people of color accounting for nearly 60% of the population. More than a fifth of the county is Black.
Representative Theresa Mah, Democrat who represents Chicago, has had first-hand experience with the pandemic’s impact on the state’s elderly minority populations:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us all the devastating impact of these inequities, and that urgent action must be taken to ensure that our adults of color can live healthy and fulfilling lives.”
Another crucial equity issue facing many Illinoisans is access to broadband internet. More people used telehealth services during the pandemic, but the trend may continue.. While it’s often more accessible, reliable internet connection is required.
According to the AARP, more than a third of Black and Latino seniors in Illinois do not have internet access at home, leaving an already vulnerable age group more disconnected.eaves an already vulnerable age group even more vulnerable.
Raul Raymundo, CEO of the resurrection project, believes that the lack of access to internet will hinder many seniors’ ability to access future technological innovations:
“In many of our communities, the digital literacy gap is very high. A lot of our families don’t have access to the internet, nor the access to hardware. So, even new innovation in the medical field online has been a challenge for our community as a result of not having access to the internet in significant numbers.”
Economic security is an issue for many seniors of color as well. Nearly half of senior homeowners in Illinois have not yet paid off their mortgage, leaving them with a large bill to pay every month despite limited income. The AARP says instituting policy that will help seniors pay off their debts will allow seniors of color to be more economically secure.
The group is also a proponent of legislation that will prohibit evictions and foreclosures even beyond the pandemic.