Monika Wnuk, AARP Illinois
firstname.lastname@example.org / (773) 742-3743
Waiting for Vaccines, New Data Shows Black, Latino and Asian American Seniors Dying of COVID-19 at Alarmingly Higher Rates
State Lawmakers, Racial Justice Advocacy Groups Call for Solutions to Deep Disparities in Health, Economic Security and Connectivity in Illinois
CHICAGO – As older adults anxiously await vaccines to protect them, African American/Black, Latino and Asian American older adults in Chicago and statewide are getting sick and dying of COVID-19 at rates much higher than their share of the population, according to new data from AARP Illinois, the Chicago Urban League, The Resurrection Project, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago released today.
The sobering statistics – evidence that longstanding inequities have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic – have prompted the creation of a collaboration to urge officials and influencers across the state to find ways to create systemic policy changes on behalf of, and with, older adults of color.
“The disproportionate number of Illinois’ older adults of color dying from COVID-19, while heartbreaking, is not an anomaly,” said Rosanna Marquez, AARP Illinois State Volunteer President. “It is evidence of longstanding inequities, from the social conditions that lead to poor health to unequal access to quality care, to limited economic resources, which have existed for years.”
During a press conference, Marquez and leaders from the groups pledged to do their part to “Disrupt Disparities” in Illinois and create an Illinois where older adults across communities can age with the economic stability, health care resources, and digital connectivity they need to lead healthy, stable, and rewarding lives. They were joined by Illinois Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins, Senator Robert Peters, Representative Theresa Mah, and other elected officials.
“We’ve seen that racial economic disparities can accumulate over the course of someone’s lifetime to create widening wealth gaps in communities of color,” said Illinois State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins. “This study of the experiences and needs of older adults of color is an essential first step in creating an Illinois where older adults can age with financial security, healthcare that meets their needs, and the digital resources they need to lead healthy, productive, and rewarding lives.”
“The COVID-19 public health crisis has wreaked havoc on our older adults of color, and has brought to the forefront the deep disparities that exist in these communities in the areas of health, economic security, and connectivity,” said Illinois State Senator Robert Peters. “It has never been more important or more urgent to bring about the systemic and structural change needed to promote equitable solutions for older adults of color and their families.”
“Older adults of color have suffered from the effects of disparities that lead to health problems, unequal access to reliable health care, and limited economic resources for far too long,” said State Representative Theresa Mah. “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.”
Collaborators on the “Disrupt Disparities” initiative called for immediate action and recommended policy solutions for many of the disparities outlined in the report.
“We’re proud to be a collaborator on this groundbreaking report that shows how structural inequities are impacting older adults across communities of color, including the Asian American community,” said Andy Kang, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago. “Asian Americans are often left out of conversations regarding racial disparities due to the ‘model minority’ myth, when in fact, many are suffering due to economic disparities, lack of resources, and other factors. This report emphasizes the need not only for more data on Asian American communities, but more disaggregated data, to really understand the impact of these disparities on our communities.”