Examining The Social Factors That Help Black Seniors Thrive In Later Life

By: Jennifer Magdalene

Although the life expectancy of Black Americans has been on an upward trend in recent decades, it continues to lag behind that of white people – Black Americans live to around 71 years old on average, six years less than their white counterparts. However, comparing Black longevity to white longevity is a limited method of data collection, which often fails to identify areas where Black seniors are thriving. To rectify this problem, The Black Progress Index, recently launched by the Brookings Institution in partnership with the NAACP, lets users look at Black life expectancy rates, along with different predictors of longevity, across the country. The interactive dashboard therefore provides refreshing insight into areas where Black seniors are living long and well.

Where are Black seniors thriving?

In both Weld County, Colorado and Manassas Park, Virginia, Black residents have an impressive average life expectancy of 96 years old – the highest among all Black citizens in the nation, and far greater than the average national life expectancy of 76. It’s also worth noting a life expectancy for Black people into the 80s also exists in Montgomery County, Maryland and Collier County, Florida. Black people are also doing well elsewhere in Virginia, with an average life expectancy of 82.7 years found in Loudoun, 82.2 years in Fairfax, and 81.8 years in Prince William.

Positive influential social conditions

Positive social conditions, including, housing, high income, entrepreneurship, and college education, all increase the likelihood of Black people living longer. 45% of Black people in Montgomery County, Maryland, for instance, have at least a bachelor’s degree or higher (in fact, higher education is estimated to increase life expectancy by one year). Montgomery County is also home to plenty of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Black people who attend HBCUs are typically at lower risk for health problems and disability in later life. Currently, 38% of Black people aged 65 and older in the U.S. are diagnosed with at least one disability, compared with 33.5% of all older adults. Mobility aids like wheelchairs, walkers, and rollators are often needed to help older people retain freedom and independence in later life. Thoughtful accessibility measures in commercial parking spaces also play a key role in ensuring seniors can drive anywhere they wish while maintaining safety and comfort.

Predictors of low Black life expectancy

Unsurprisingly, predictors like air pollution and gun violence were found to decrease Black life expectancy across the country. However, a more unexpected predictor of low Black life expectancy turns out to be religious membership. Although it’s not certain why this is, past research has found middle-aged adults who are religious are more likely to be obese than people who are non-religious.

The importance of a nuanced perspective

“When you look at racial disparities by lumping all Black people together, and seeing everybody as the same, you lose the nuanced differences as well as the sense of agency that we have in our lives,” said Dr. Andre Perry, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute. “Even as we struggle to close racial gaps as a race, we still must be aware of the opportunities to make improvements in our lives and in our communities.” Understanding the areas in which Black people are thriving play a key role in this. “In some areas, you’ll see that the Black community has taken civic action to address a problem or organized to increase the minimum wage,” Perry explained. “Others will then begin to say, ‘If they can do it, why not us?’”. Indeed, various efforts are underway in Montgomery County, Maryland, for example, to improve equitable opportunities and take apart the preexisting “architecture of inequality” that works to decrease life expectancy for Black people.

According to Perry, the Black Progress Index is set to be updated annually. The research team is also planning on launching a survey to ask Black people about the elements that are most important in positively impacting their quality of life. “I think that this is going to be one of the go-to sources to understand the conditions of Black America moving forward,” Perry said.

Latest Articles


Search our archive of past issues Receive our Latest Updates
* indicates required

October 16, 2023, HOUSTON, TX – Congressional Candidate Amanda Edwards has raised over $1 million in less than 4 months, a substantial sum that helps bolster the frontrunner status of the former At-Large Houston City Council Member in her bid for U.S. Congress. Edwards raised over $433,000 in Q3 of 2023. This strong Q3 report expands on a successful Q2 where Edwards announced just 11 days after declaring her candidacy that she had raised over $600,000. With over $829,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of the September 30th financial reporting period, Edwards proves again that she is the clear frontrunner in the race. “I am beyond grateful for the strong outpouring of support that will help me to win this race and serve the incredible people of the 18th Congressional District,” said Edwards. “We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s trajectory, and we need to send servant leaders to Congress who can deliver the results the community deserves. The strong support from our supporters will help us to cultivate an 18th Congressional District where everyone in it can thrive.” Edwards said. “Amanda understands the challenges that the hard-working folks of the 18th Congressional District face because she has never lost sight of who she is or where she comes from; she was born and raised right here in the 18th Congressional District of Houston,” said Kathryn McNiel, spokesperson for Edwards’ campaign. Edwards has been endorsed by Higher Heights PAC, Collective PAC, Krimson PAC, and the Brady PAC. She has also been supported by Beto O’Rourke, among many others. About Amanda: Amanda is a native Houstonian, attorney and former At-Large Houston City Council Member. Amanda is a graduate of Eisenhower High School in Aldine ISD. Edwards earned a B.A. from Emory University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Edwards practiced law at Vinson & Elkins LLP and Bracewell LLP before entering public service. Edwards is a life-long member of St. Monica Catholic Church in Acres Homes. For more information, please visit www.edwardsforhouston.com

As September 13th rolls around, we extend our warmest birthday wishes to the creative powerhouse, Tyler Perry, a man whose indomitable spirit and groundbreaking work have left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment. With his multifaceted talents as an actor, playwright, screenwriter, producer, and director, Tyler Perry has not only entertained but also inspired audiences worldwide, particularly within the African-American community, where his influence and role have been nothing short of powerful. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1969, Tyler Perry’s journey to stardom was a path riddled with adversity. Raised in a turbulent household, he found refuge in writing, using it as a therapeutic outlet. This period of introspection gave rise to one of his most iconic creations, Madea, a vivacious, no-nonsense grandmother who would later become a beloved figure in Perry’s works, offering a unique blend of humor and profound life lessons. Despite facing numerous challenges, including rejection and financial struggles, Perry’s determination and unwavering belief in his abilities propelled him forward. In 1992, he staged his first play, “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” which, although met with limited success, was a pivotal moment in his career. Unfazed by initial setbacks, Perry continued to hone his craft, and by 1998, he had successfully produced a string of stage plays that showcased his storytelling prowess.

Calling all teenage student-athletes! If you have dreams of playing college soccer and wish to represent an HBCU, the HBCU ID Camp is your golden opportunity. From 8 am to 5 pm on November 11-12, Houston Sports Park will transform into a hub for aspiring male and female soccer players. Coaches from HBCUs across the nation will be present to evaluate, scout, and offer valuable feedback. Moreover, they might even spot the next soccer prodigy to join their collegiate soccer programs. This camp is not just about honing your soccer skills but also a chance to connect with the HBCU soccer community. You’ll learn the ins and outs of what it takes to excel on the field and in the classroom, which is crucial for a college athlete. The HBCU ID Camp is an excellent platform to network with coaches, learn from experienced athletes, and take the first steps toward your college soccer journey. To secure your spot at this incredible event, don’t forget to register [here](insert registration link). Space is limited to 120 participants, so make sure to reserve your place before it’s too late. It’s time to turn your dreams of playing college soccer into a reality.

Scroll to Top