Life expectancy is the average length of time persons, defined by age, sex, ethnic group, and socioeconomic status in a given society, are expected to live. The older population is the most rapidly increasing segment of the U.S. population. Since 1900 the number of older adults has increased over ten times and their percentage of the population has more than tripled. This increase is projected to continue at a rate of 1.3 percent annually until 2010. (Torrez, p.132) The number of ethnic minority elderly persons will grow much more rapidly than the number of White elderly people over the next 50 years. The percentage of older adults in the United States that is made up of Blacks and other non-White minorities will increase from 10.2 in
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Their elders have a higher incidence than their white counterparts of diabetes, hypertension, accidents, tuberculosis, heart disease, liver and kidney disease, strokes, pneumonia, influenza, hearing and visual impairments, and problems stemming from obesity, gallbladder, or arthritis. Cancer survival rates are the lowest among all U.S. populations (NIH, 2000). Diabetes has reached nearly epidemic proportions in this population, which places heavy demands on families to help manage elders' diet, exercise and insulin. (Hooyman, p.544)
The majority of American Indian elders rarely see a physician, often because living in isolated areas, lacking transportation, and mis-trusting non-Indian health professionals. Accordingly, the prevailing life circumstances for many elders of poverty, low self-esteem, alcoholism, and substance abuse may interfere with their ability to seek preventative health care. In addition, language remains a barrier.
Sociocultural and political barriers to health care among American Indians encompass the following: they distrust the medical care that is not native; they encounter professionals' lack of sensitivity to ritual folk healing and cultural definitions of disease; they have experienced racism, discrimination, and stereotyping and have been turned away from public clinics; they are unwilling to sit through long waits at non-native clinics.
Latinos are the largest ethnic minority population and