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AARP is Listening in Multicultural Communities

Older North Carolina African Americans would like to enjoy retirement, but this goal is increasingly uncertain because of health and economic worries.

A new AARP survey of the state’s African Americans age 50 or older reflects an older population with bright dreams of traveling and spending time on leisure pursuits in retirement. But concerns over staying healthy, receiving social Security when they need it, and having enough health insurance coverage cast a shadow over those dreams. Only around one quarter or fewer of those surveyed feel they have the resources they need to address a wide range of concerns.

This is something all generations of Americans need to work on together, and AARP can help.

The North Carolina results come from a massive survey effort. AARP conducted separate surveys in each of the 50 states and the three territories where it has offices, plus a national survey, to better gather information on the needs, interests and concerns of Americans 50+. More than 300 North Carolina African Americans were surveyed in January.

Among the North Carolina survey’s findings:

  • Over one in four respondents said vacation and travel are activities they most dream of doing. Another 15 percent listed hobbies and interests as their top dream, while seven percent dreamed most about finding a new or better job.
  • Nearly four in ten respondents said health care issues, including the cost of health care and staying healthy, is their top challenge. About one third listed economic issues as their top concern, including unemployment and having enough money to retire.
  • About one-fourth or fewer of respondents say they have the resources they need to meet a wide range of hopes and expectations: to stay healthy, receive Social Security when they need it, maintain adequate health insurance coverage and receive Medicare when needed, among others.

In addition to AARP’s statewide survey of African Americans, our North Carolina Director of Multicultural Outreach, Debra Tyler-Horton, has met with over 200 African Americans 50+ in Wake County alone to ask: “When you tell the story about your community what are you most proud of? What has been your contribution? When dreaming the future, there are many services and programs available to us as we age: What is missing for you in your community? “

In terms of challenges, she has heard a wide range of concerns, ranging from lack of transportation and affordable housing to a need for more financial literacy education, and from needs for senior day care and help with home modifications to a need for access to affordable fresh produce and dental insurance. Sources of pride have included efforts to keep communities clean, support from local police officers, affordable housing and facilities such as YWCAs and community centers.

What Tyler-Horton has learned is information crucial to fulfilling the dreams of all as they age, and connecting these dreams with AARP’s services and programs can make a huge difference. AARP cannot solve all of the problems, but working together with community programs, non-profit organizations, churches and individuals, we can fulfill many needs and help entire communities change.
Along with continuing to hold listening sessions throughout the year, Tyler-Horton’s ongoing commitment to helping change whole communities has her telling AARP’s story on the radio on Raleigh’s WNNL (103.9 The Light) on the first Sunday of every month (6:30-7:00 a.m.) and on the second and fourth Sunday mornings of each month on Raleigh’s WAUG (750 AM) from 9:30 – 10:00 a.m. Here she provides information about AARP programs and services and engages individuals in sharing their stories. As a result, others can hear real life on the air, from people who look and sound like them.
One example of Tyler-Horton’s collaborative work on behalf of AARP North Carolina is with Southeast Raleigh Assembly (SERA), located in the heart of a predominately African American community. There AARP has been one of the sponsors for “Dancing in the Park,” an exercise program that brings together people of all ages every Monday during the summer months. AARP has also been on-site to speak and to provide information about our programs and services and to take part in discussions about nutrition and other health matters.

Further, AARP is supporting SERA’s program “Living Life to the Fullest through Self-Love (LLFS). This is a preventive health and wellness program designed to create an understanding of the power area residents have to extend their lifespan, create health and wellness in their own lives and live fully by practicing some very simple steps.
AARP will work with SERA as we coordinate with local small businesses; barber shops, salons and faith institutions to educate the community through various activities. These include taking blood pressure readings and counseling program participants, as well as creating onsite opportunities for follow-up and facilitating preventive medicine training from local health professionals. This partnership is vital to the Southeast Raleigh community as AARP helps African Americans enhance their ability to live longer and fuller lives.

AARP is listening to African Americans and others among adults 50+ about what is important to them, and the survey and listening sessions are among several tools that AARP leaders will use on both the state and national level to guide the association’s work in the near future, particularly in diverse communities. AARP North Carolina will use this valuable information to redouble its efforts to help all North Carolinians age 50+ live their best life.

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