Q&A with Aisha Young, Founder of African Americans in Gerontology

October 2011 | Aisha Young, Founder of African Americans in Gerontology

What is African Americans in Gerontology and when was it formed?

African Americans in Gerontology (AAIG) is a national nonprofit organization designed to provide guidance and professional development opportunities, encourage networking, and promote community activism for African American professionals and students in the field of gerontology, in order to improve the quality of life for African American elderly. AAIG was formed in early 2009.

What types of benefits (or services) do you offer to your members?

  1. AAIG will provide current gerontological information, practicum/internship placement, and field placement for students and professionals in the field of gerontology.
  2. AAIG will conduct symposiums and workshops to the community.
  3. AAIG will send out semi-annual newsletters.
  4. AAIG will provide links for current issues in gerontology. AAIG will also feature student papers and articles on its website.

Why is working with the LGBT communities important to AAIG’s work?

Working with the LGBT community represents our ongoing commitment to address the breadth and depth of the issues impacting at-risk and/or marginalized communities. LGBT elderly in the African American community face tremendous social, economic and cultural challenges that exacerbate the already difficult challenges of aging in our society! Our commitment to effectively addressing issues confronting African American elderly requires us to embrace the entire spectrum of issues this community faces.

What advice would you offer African Americans in the gerontology field who are working with LGBT people?

We understand that LGBT issues in the African American community are considered taboo, nonexistent, and often unspoken of. Our best advice would be to educate yourselves and cohorts about these issues.

There has been much research in demographic trends that predicts an exponential growth in older adult people of color and those who are LGBT. How do you see the gerontology field preparing for this boom in populations who are more diverse and potentially more vulnerable to society’s hardships?

Gerontology will need to increase the cultural competence of gerontologists. The development of internships and opportunities for practical application of communication and relationship skills will be more critical than ever before.

In our work, we have found that LGBT older adults need to rely on families of choice (those who are not blood-related or legally-recognized) for care and support, similar to some non-LGBT people of color populations. How should the gerontology field deal with recognizing these broad families of choice?

Gerontology will need to increase the capacity of service providers and policy developers to recognize the changing nature of families in today's society.

Many LGBT older adults across the spectrum of racial and ethnic communities have found that there is a distinct lack of culturally and linguistically competent service providers. How would you start a conversation with a gerontologist about the need for providing culturally and linguistically competent services that account for diversity in sexual orientation, gender identity, race and ethnicity?

One way AAIG seeks to initiate this communication is by demonstrating a commitment to cultural competence as an essential skill among service providers. We demonstrate this by offering training and advocacy and by developing partnerships that expose our members, associates and partners to the issues impacting our members and friend. Finally, we see these partnerships as critical to our capacity to effectively speak to or give voice to issues that impact African American elder; particularly among African American LGBT populations.

We envision a future system where all LGBT people can access affordable and culturally competent services in the gerontology field. Where would you like to see the gerontology field in 10-20 years from now?

We envision gerontology as being a first tier career field, with an increase in skilled providers and a policy environment that is responsive and sensitive to the issues impacting elderly.

Aisha C. Young, M.A., ADC is a native of Colorado Springs, CO. In 2002, she graduated from Bethune-Cookman University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Gerontology. As an undergrad, she focused on elderly drivers in the state of Florida. In 2008, she obtained her Master’s of Arts degree in Aging Studies. While in graduate school she studied Relocation Stress Syndrome. There are 4 types of relocation. The one least studied is seniors relocating from home to home (i.e. living with relatives.) Relocation Stress Syndrome is a phenomenon which symptoms include but are not limited to: depression, increased walls, and failure to thrive. That same year she started her own geriatric care management firm called Eunihc Gerontological Consulting Firm. Early 2009, she developed African Americans In Gerontology to network with other gerontologists and to guide students studying gerontology. She is a contributing author to Creative Forecasting, a monthly periodical for Activities Directors.