Older Americans tend to have more chronic health issues than their younger counterparts, and they may also suffer from discrimination when trying to access care, some say.
A quarter of black and Latino adults 60 and older said they experienced discrimination in healthcare because of their race, such as the health professional not taking their concerns seriously, according to a report from The Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit healthcare think tank. More than one in four people said as a result, they didn’t get the right care for their problems.
The Commonwealth Fund report was based on its 2021 International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults, which surveyed almost 2,000 Americans 60 and older, as well as adults 65 and older in 10 other countries, including Australia, France, New Zealand, Sweden and the U.K.
The study found U.S. older adults were more likely to report discrimination in this setting than those in other high-income countries. Those who experienced discrimination were also more likely to rank in a worse health status and face financial challenges.
Among women, more Black women said they felt the healthcare system treated people differently because of their race or ethnicity (49%) compared to Latina women (34%) and white women (37%).
There may be ways to improve these results, the report found. The Commonwealth Fund recommended policies that include expanding education in medical schools around race and biases; addressing the lack of diversity among healthcare workers by engaging in community colleges, historically Black colleges and Latino-based institutions; and reviewing governmental programs and policies that might influence discrimination.
The National Council on Aging also released research on Thursday that found the cost of chronic illnesses was higher for women and people of color. Poverty among older people of color who had chronic diseases, such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s, were seven to 16 times higher than white Americans, according to the findings, which were based on data of almost 12,000 adults 60 and older.
“Health and economic security are completely intertwined,” said Ramsey Alwin, president and chief executive officer of the National Council on Aging.” As in many other areas of our society, the heaviest burden of chronic disease falls on those older adults who can least afford it – namely, women and people of color.”