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Americans are living longer than ever before — about 30 years longer, on average, than a century ago — according to leading scholars who participated the Longevity Project and the Stanford Center on Longevity’s December 2021 conference.  Additionally, “Living Longer: Historical and Projected Life Expectancy in the United States, 1960 to 2060,” a report of population estimates and projections from the U.S Census, estimates increases in life expectancy to be larger for men than women, by 2060.  The report’s authors, Lauren Medina, Shannon Sabo, and Jonathan Vespa issued their findings in February 2020, and noted that all racial and ethnic groups are projected to have longer life expectancies in coming decades, but the greatest gains will be to African American men and Native Americans.  Currently, adults 50 and older represent 35 percent of the nation’s population and account for more than 50 percent of consumer spending.

So, what does that mean for African Americans and their ability to age gracefully and vibrantly into their 80s? 

Well, despite the horrid precedence set by the Social Security Act of 1935, which while designed to secure respectable, livable incomes for the nation’s seniors, reinforced the racially divisive exclusion of agricultural and domestic workers.  This legislation, signed by then-President Franklin Roosevelt, unilaterally removed the intended safety net for Black elderly, unemployed and disadvantaged Americans, and forced them to continue working into their twilight, to rely on charity, or depend on family members for care.  

Nearly 90 years later, and despite the Act’s volatility, African Americans continue to thrive and live their best lives.  

“There will always be issues of health disparities and wealth gaps, but there has also been an amazing amount of growth.  African Americans are hardly ‘tragically Black,’ and without happiness,” psychologist Miranda Sedgwick told The Informer.  “Not only are Black Americans living longer, but they are doing so happy, content, loved, and loving.”

Sedgewick found that Black seniors were taking active roles in the world around them – from participating in protests and mentoring others, to returning to college, traveling, and taking on new and exciting hobbies.  

“Many Black seniors are taking the YOLO (You Only Live Once) phrase to a new level, investing in their own happiness and inspiring younger generations in the process,” Sedgewick said. “African American seniors are reinvigorating their sex lives, enjoying newfound companionship on social media and dating sites, and strengthening their marriages.”

In this edition of The Washington Informer, we have gathered information on how best to live abundant and fulfilled lives over the age of 50, including tips and resources.

Read, Learn, Grow.

Dr. Shantella Sherman

Dr. Shantella Sherman is a historian and journalist who serves as the Informer's Special Editions Editor. Dr. Sherman is the author of In Search of Purity: Eugenics & Racial Uplift Among New Negroes...

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