Community Voices

Older Adult Providers

In June 2020, DC Health staff planned and facilitated an online community engagement session with four providers who serve older adults. Using the whole-person health framework, facilitators asked providers what was happening in the lives of older adults who are HIV-positive and HIV-negative.

Major Themes

  • Isolation
  • Mental wellness
  • Access to resources for technology, social services, and connectivity

Concerns

  • Older adults often exist in three different spaces: the past, future, and present.
  • Society has negative associations with aging, which causes older adults to fear the unknown aspects of getting older.
  • Older adults can get lonely, especially if they do not have a spouse. COVID-19 has increased isolation for older adults.
  • Older adults have to navigate new technology, and it is difficult for some. Those who are comfortable using technology have felt more connected during the pandemic.
  • There is not enough education about mental health services for adults. Older adults are often in denial about their mental health needs.
  • Religion plays a big role in the lives of older adults, especially in Black and Latino/a/x communities, and can serve as a barrier. (It can also be a bridge to care. See below.)
  • It can be hard for older adults to advocate for themselves. They don’t always trust the systems in place.
  • Transportation is a barrier to care for many older adults.
  • Some older adults are afraid of not having enough money, or that their money will be taken from them.
  • Family dynamics are often complex. Some older adults are the glue keeping the family unit together and are more focused on others’ needs than their own. Some are not allowed to make their own decisions or have a voice in their care. Others are ignored or neglected by their families.

Strengths

  • Many older adults still work and live independently.
  • Older adults still desire to have a purpose in life.
  • Religion often keeps older adults hopeful, engaged, and connected to a higher purpose, and faith communities serve as a support system.
  • Older adults who can do in-person appointments or engage in activities seem to have better health outcomes.

What can DC Health do to support older adults?

  • Focus on what is important to them, such as having a safe space to relax, feeling included, sharing their stories, and feeling heard.
  • Find employment positions that give them purpose and make them feel useful, such as peer support work, after-school programs, and mentoring.
  • Have as many services at a single location as possible.
  • Do more mental health and wellness programs such as older adult retreats.
  • Create an online referral system to better connect them with services.
  • Create programs based on mobility, rather than age.
  • Expand the provider network to include more culturally competent providers.
  • When building programs, consider individuals who speak different languages.
  • Work with faith-based communities for outreach and engagement.

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