“Aging should not be regarded as an affliction. It is a stage in life, like all others, that deserves to be celebrated and documented in all its natural grace and beauty”. The brilliant work of Chester Higgins, Jr., co-author of Elder Grace, reminds me of the gifts, wisdom, and legacies that emanate from the souls of our minority elders. Their source of resiliency and sense of dignity is amazing and something that should be revered. Understanding this foundation motivates me to learn more, do more, and to make sure that others know of their greatness. They are a group to be respected and appreciated.
I often ask myself, how can one dismiss their struggles or ignore the contributions of this wonderful and brilliant generation of adults? My grandmother, who will soon be the ripe young age of 90, reminds me that to become older is something of beauty. Hearing the stories of when she was younger is truly amazing. I am in total awe of her magnificent stories of being younger in the “olden days” (as she calls it). She recalls the joys of family, the close knit neighborhoods, and yes, even living on a farm and picking tobacco, which was a summer chore for her and her siblings. Yet, with the good times she also reminds me that times were also very hard. From receiving ration tickets during the Great Depression to Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement, she tells me that through it all, God saw her and her family through those tough times. For these stories, my admiration for the elderly, particularly minorities, goes beyond any amount of measure.
Again, I ask: how can we not appreciate and marvel at the lived experiences of older Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans? The richness of their experiences has shaped this nation to what it is today. If it were not for their struggles, I would not be where I am today, as an Associate Professor at a predominantly white institution. If it were not for their sacrifices, there would still be the adage of “separate but unequal”. Yes, I know the saying was “separate but equal”, but we all know that was not true. For all that older minorities have done before me, I say “thank you”! As I type this passage, I realize that I am blessed! Blessed to have my grandmother who continues to captivate me with her knowledge and stories (and who does not look a day over 60…I sigh, but with a smile!). So, as I continue to focus my own research on older minorities, I am reminded that aging is indeed to be celebrated in all its natural beauty and grace. Knowing the rich history of our elders and forefathers arms me with the brilliance, stamina, patience, and foresight to continue as the legacies of greatness have done so many years ago…I’m ready…Are you?
Dr. Baker is the co-author of the forthcoming book, Handbook of Minority Aging. This text provides up-to-date, multidisciplinary, and comprehensive information about aging among diverse racial and ethnic populations in the United States. It is the only book to focus on paramount public health issues as they relate to older minority Americans, and addresses social, behavioral, and biological concerns for this population. A "one-stop shop" regarding the development of a substantial knowledge base about minority aging, this text also includes recent progressive research pertaining to the social, cultural, psychological and health needs of elderly minority adults in the US.