Category: Social and Community Context

28 - Helping Older African American Adults Thrive: Their Strategies to promote Healthy Aging


African American older adults are disproportionately victimized by systems, which relegate them to disparities in health, education and literacy, socio-economics and the social environment. As a result, avenues to promote healthy aging, and advanced literacy, self-empowerment, and social-community connections are critical (Waites, 2012). It calls for access to information and resources to expand awareness (Ntiri & Stewart, 2009, 2010). In consideration of risk factors, and other social determinants that can impinge on the quality of life of older African Americans, a study was conducted to better understand how to foster healthy aging for the 21st century. A wellness framework is employed to understand how elders conceive healthy aging as they age in place. 

Two focus groups with African American older adults, age 57 – 83 was conducted to understand their: perceptions and interest in health literacy; knowledge regarding wellness and healthy aging; knowledge regarding financial security, retirement planning; and national and local policies and resources. These groups also provided information regarding strategies for service provision. Sessions were audio taped, transcribed and analyzed by the researchers using qualitative methods. 

Findings indicate that African American older adults want to maintain their independence and recognize that they may need some assistance as they age in place. They have observed that some elders define themselves by their disability and “don't try,“ they give up and isolate themselves. While many expressed feeling pushed aside by family and society they rejected the stereotypes regarding aging. They called for programs to assist older adults in being more proactive regarding their wellness and health care, and for strategies that actively encourage more engaged older adults to actively reach out to their less engaged peers. They also suggested that a strategy to enlighten younger generations about the “senior world,” and aging is crucial.


Cheryl Waites Spellman

UNC Charlotte
Cornelius, North Carolina

Dr. Cheryl Waites, is a Professor at UNC Charlotte School of Social Work this fall and the former Dean of the Wayne State University, School of Social Work.

She is a Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholar, Cohort VII, and a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of American. Her research areas include healthy aging, long distance caregiving, intergenerational relationships, and culturally appropriate and responsive practice. She has also studied promising practices for enhancing gerontological social work education and training. Her expertise is in the areas of designing and evaluating practice applications and translational or applied research primarily in urban settings. Her book, Social Work Practice with African American Families: An Intergenerational Perspective, provides an approach for understanding multi-generational families. Dr. Waites has numerous publications in refereed journals, and has written several book chapters, teaching/training books and technical reports. Dr. Waites has also presented her research at numerous international, national and regional conferences. She is also a recipient of the NC State University Outstanding teaching award in 2005.

Daphne Ntiri

Wayne State University
Detroit, Michigan

Daphne W. Ntiri, PhD has been privileged to hold faculty, administrative, and consultant positions in the international, academic, and public sectors. She is currently Professor in the Department of African American Studies, Wayne State University. She is a prolific scholar, is highly funded and a tireless advocate for the underserved. Her major areas of research are African American studies, adult education and literacy, transformative learning, gender and Third World studies. Prof. Ntiri served for three years as consultant on adult education/literacy to United Nations (UNESCO) in Paris, France, Senegal and Somalia, before launching her long-term adult literacy initiatives at Wayne State University through state funded and federal grants amounting to over $5 million. Such funding has enabled the creation of departmental sub-units to outreach the community and promote adult education instruction and research and enhance institutional capacity-building. She is committed to creating campus environments that promote learning as a transformative experience for students both here at Wayne State University and at other institutions (University of Djibouti and University of Ouagadougou) where she taught. She is the author of over 40 peer-reviewed articles and chapters and editor of eight books. Her most recent edited book is, Literacy as gendered discourse: Engaging the voices of women in global society by Information Age Publishing. Dr. Ntiri received her undergraduate degree from Fourah Bay College, the University of Sierra Leone and Masters and doctorate degrees from Michigan State University upon completion of a predoctoral fellowship at the International Institute for Labor Studies/International Labor Office (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland. She was an IFESH Visiting Scholar to the University of Djibouti and was a recent Fulbright Scholar to the University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. She will honor an invitation to join the research faculty at the Centre for Gender Research at the University of Uppsala in spring of 2017.