• Phone: 313-833-1300


Ageism and Privilege

1000 1000 Hannan Center

For the third time in as many months, I took my mom out to enjoy a live show.  The first show was at Detroit’s Masonic Temple, the second at the new Little Caesar’s Arena (LCA), and the third one was at Flint’s Capitol Theatre.  Constructed in the 1920s, the Masonic Temple and the Capitol Theatre are reminders of an age when cities erected large, performing arts venues themed after grand, European architecture styles.  The LCA, built only a few years ago, boasts an innovative, modern design with many amenities.  While all three have aesthetics one might appreciate, they pose logistical challenges for older people and those with disabilities.

In her nineties, my mom is in excellent health.  However, I’ve noticed that over the last few years, she has started to walk slower and is a little less steady on her feet.  Planning accordingly, I arrived early at each venue to give us time to get settled. However, in each instance, I found limited accessibility options for people who have mobility challenges.

For instance, the event at the Masonic Temple indicated that doors opened at 7:00 pm.  In reality, the auditorium didn’t allow patrons to enter until 7:30 (the event started at 8:00), and people stood in the cold waiting to get inside.  After getting inside the lobby, there was another 30-minute wait before they allowed people to enter the auditorium.  With few places to sit, my mom stood an hour before she could rest.  I noticed others with canes and walkers also standing.

Built before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Masonic Temple is not an age-friendly venue.  Once inside of the theater, there were other barriers – such as low lighting that did not illuminate the sloped floors, uneven carpeting, and narrow spaces between rows that required you to sidle sideways to squeeze by already seated patrons.

On the other hand, the LCA is ADA compliant, but it still posed some accessibility challenges.  For instance, it is not possible to drop someone off near the entrance because of the traffic barriers that the city has installed to keep the Q-line free of congestion.  The closest parking garage (which costs $30!) connects to the LCA, but it is a long walk for anyone, let alone someone who needs accommodations.

Once inside the arena, you can move between floors on an elevator, but steep stairs to the stadium seating were another obstacle to navigate.  Flint’s Capitol Theatre also had accessibility barriers – no elevator to access the balcony, and steep stairs to descend to get to seating.

Typically, I wouldn’t have thought twice about these issues, but having my mother with me caused me to be hyper-aware.  While some of the concerns that I raise may be unavoidable (e.g., stadium stairs), I still wondered whether more could have been done to improve accessibility.  These experiences also made me realize my own privilege.  Other than the recovery period after my knee surgery, I’ve never worried about accessibility issues.  Walking too far or standing for long periods isn’t an issue for me right now, but one day that may change.

Given that in just a few years, our senior population will swell to where there are more people who are 60 years and older than those who are under 18, developers, city planners, and other decision-makers must think about how to make communities work well for people from the ages of two to 92.  If they don’t, there will be a lot of us on the outside who are looking in.

– By Vincent Tilford, Executive Director

If We’re All Aging Then Age-Friendly is For All of Us

1000 1000 Hannan Center

By, Misha Stallworth, Director of Arts and Culture

When you look in the mirror, when you think of yourself, how do you identify? How does the list of all the things that you are formulate? Are you a natural-haired woman? A queer man? An athlete?

I see myself as Black, a woman, and a professional (among other things). Those identities first come to mind for me and in that order. It’s normal for all of us to experience our identities in a prioritized way; the list can shift sometimes depending on where we are or who we’re around, but it’s always there. For example, when you’re caring for a parent, you may see yourself as a daughter first. When you go out to dinner with your spouse you may see yourself as a husband first. When you show up for art class, you’re an artist first. This is all common and normal. What is also normal is that we rarely see ourselves as our age first. Looking in the mirror you see all the other things you are before your number of years. And yet the outside world is very pre-occupied with age as a point of reference. I’m asked how old I am constantly and there are always conversations that include someone’s age relative to their lives or behaviors, “she’s only 50,” they say about a woman with arthritis. “He’s way too old to be in the club,” they say about a man who goes dancing and so on.

There is dissonance between the way the world prioritizes our identities and the way we do so for ourselves. The interesting thing about the world’s perspective is it ignores that age determines very little about our lives—while there are many inevitable changes that come with aging, most of the things we associate with it, like declining health and mobility, are moving targets across the life span. However, what is solid, consistent, and true for all of us (should we be so lucky) is that we’re aging regardless of where our age is prioritized on our identity list or what the world sees.

This is what makes the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Age-Friendly Communities and Cities initiative so essential. It demands that we look at all the intersections of needs across the lifespan and life experience. It is about, “creating barrier-free and affordable housing, accessible public spaces, and transportation [that] enable people to stay independent and participate in community life.” ALL people. A sidewalk should be an accessible public space. If it is well maintained—without cracks and tree roots—it is accessible for the early morning runner, for the person with a stroller, for the toddler learning to walk, and for the person in the wheelchair.

We must demand that people look at the development across Detroit with an age-friendly lens; a lens that asks the question “is this accessible for as many people as possible as they (and we) age?” It is a marker of our society that as we age we are pushed to the fringes assumed to only be interested in McDonald’s coffee and the 11 o’clock news. Committing to being age-friendly is a commitment to keep all people enfolded in the community and its development process. Development that is driven by only a few groups is not lasting or accessible, yet often it takes little to make it such. It doesn’t require funding set aside for “senior projects,” because our needs are not determined by age but by the diverse changes our bodies and lives experience as time goes on. Doorways can be built wider in new homes for wheelchairs and improved sight lines for families with young children (widening a doorway after the fact can cost up to $3,000); benches at public parks can be built at just the right height and without that slant backward for people who need assistance standing and those of us who are, let’s say, vertically challenged. A person over 60 could fit in any one of the categories I just listed without fitting in others. Wearing the age-friendly lens while we drive and participate in change across the city ensures that we all stay more connected, especially those often pushed to the fringes. It is an inclusive approach that benefits the broader community and common good.

Talk to your friends, your family, and your neighbors about how they see themselves and what kind of built environment would best suit them. Take note of the areas that are similar for people who are 17 and 70. Share that information with others—from your colleagues to your council(wo)man—and as you move through your neighborhood notice the areas that could change for the better. Congratulations, you are now participating in building an age-friendly community.

After-work Caregiving Means Working a Second Shift

400 120 Hannan Center

When an older loved one needs care, those who step in may find themselves balancing the demands of full-time jobs with the demands of providing that care. Whether it’s calling for a doctor’s appointment, stocking the fridge or paying the bills, being there for a person in need means adding work hours to an already busy day.

That’s why the Hannan Foundation created the Next Shift program – to assist full time employees who are also providing unpaid care to a family member, neighbor or friend. This free, confidential service helps full-time, employed caregivers secure support and resources for both their loved ones and themselves. But first, the person who is pitching in will need to recognize that providing such loving support defines them as a caregiver.

“Few people identify themselves as a caregiver. Many spouses, sons or daughters, siblings, or friends see what they do for loved ones as simply the right thing to do,” says Vincent Tilford, Hannan’s executive director. “Failing to reach out for help can add additional stress and greatly impact the health and well-being of the caregiver and of the care-recipient.”

In fact, research finds that caregivers who do not access supportive services are more likely to experience depression, difficulty sleeping, and fatigue – as well as challenges balancing work and home life with these added responsibilities.

Next Shift Services Include:

  • Navigating Medicaid/Medicare
  • Connecting to community resources such as food, transportation and healthcare
  • Assistance with long-term care planning
  • Legal Services/Family mediation
  • Educational Workshops/Support Groups
  • Consultations with licensed master social workers to develop personalized care plans

Next Shift program partners include the Alzheimer’s Association-Greater Michigan Chapter, Elder Law & Advocacy Center, and the Wayne State University Institute of Gerontology. The program is funded by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.

To learn more about this free service or to see if you qualify as a caregiver, call a Next Shift representative at: 313-833-1210, or email Stacey Molinaro at smolinaro@hannan.org. You can also visit the Next Shift website at: nextshiftdetroit.com

LGBTQ Ally and Aging Advocate

800 682 Hannan Center

You may ask just how a woman who identifies as straight, is married to a man, and has four children and five grandchildren becomes an advocate for the LGBTQ community. She says she got her heart for the gay and transsexual communities from her mother’s example of openness and support.

“When my cousin began transitioning from male to female, and sat my mother and me down to announce the news, my mom said, ‘I love you. I want you to be happy, whatever that is.’ That set a good example for me,” says Pat Baldwin, director of the Beyond U community of shared learning at the Hannan Center, as well as of the center’s Volunteer Services.

The Hannan Center operates programs to enhance the quality of life for Detroit’s seniors. Over the course of her 17 years spent working in aging services, hearing individual needs and observing gaps in services, Baldwin says she identified unmet needs for those in the LGBTQ community as they aged. In 2013 she founded the Detroit Elders Project which holds monthly presentations at Hannan Center on topics that affect LGBTQ elders.

“In many senior centers and places where seniors go for services there was no mention of the LGBTQ elder,” Baldwin says. “I wanted to change that.”

Baldwin says that while many young LGBTQ people are embraced and sup- ported by friends and family, LGBTQ elders grew up in a time when they may have lacked resources, advocates, employment rights and a sense of safety caused by reprisals against those who did come out.

The advocate says senior centers ignore LGBTQ elders but other settings can present more troubling treatment. In the long-term care system, a national survey by the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging found, older adults were frequently mistreated by care-center staff, including cases of verbal and physical harassment, as well as refusal of basic services.

Working with legal advocates, Baldwin says, she also learned that there weren’t legal protections for LGBTQ elders.

For example, Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits sex discrimination, among a list of categories of protected rights. But the law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. These advocates are awaiting the outcome of their recent testimony before the Michigan Civil Rights Commission as it considers issuing an interpretive statement to include LGBTQ protections in its list of enumerated rights. They also presented the Commissioners with a letter signed by 30 legal experts reiterating the importance of clarifying the law.

“This clarification is so necessary,” Baldwin says, citing a transgen- der person whose appointed legal guardian did not support their gender identity. The guardian withheld vitally needed hormones and other gender-affirming medical care, putting the transperson’s health and well-being at risk.

Baldwin is a board member of SAGE Metro-Detroit, the nation’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ elders. She says that, SAGE focuses on securing inclusive protections for the LGBTQ community and identifying welcoming housing, medical and social services, and business services.”

To learn more about LGBTQ ser- vices offered by the Hannan Cen- ter or by SAGE-Metro Detroit, visit or call: hannan.org 313.833-1300; or sagemetrodetroit.org 734.681.0854.


960 540 Hannan Center

“Influenza Outbreak – Worst in 15 years!”  

“Children under Five and Senior Citizens are at Risk.”

Almost daily, news reports have blared scary headlines. They have us thinking, oh no you didn’t when a co-worker sneezes without covering her mouth and holding our breath as we dart from the room.

Although I no longer have toddlers in my house, I am nonetheless hyper-vigilant about bringing germs home. My mom who recently turned 90 years old does live with me, and the last thing I want to do is to infect her with this year’s bug. Following the Center for Disease Control recommendation, everyone in my family has received a flu shot, but like many older adults who look askance at the warnings, my mom didn’t bother with the vaccine.

After returning home from work recently, my older son stopped me at the door. “Dad,” he said, “Grandmother’s sick.” My concern rising, I dropped my backpack and headed to my mom’s room. She was sitting up, watching television with red, watery eyes.

“Hi, Mom. How are you feeling?” I asked in a neutral tone. While there are some older adults who have lost responsibility for their lives because they aren’t able to make health decisions or abdicated their authority because they believe that their adult children know what’s best, my mom isn’t one of them. She guards her independence with defensive, short statements followed by an impervious silence that dares anyone to challenge her wishes.

“I’m fine,” she said in a hoarse whisper, but still with enough edge to let me know to leave her alone. I pressed on.

“You don’t sound well,” I said. I stood there while seconds turned into days. As I listened to the crickets in my mind, I wondered, what now? Deciding to cross a line, I did something that I have never done with my mother. I placed the back of my hand against her forehead to check for a fever, just like she did with me when I was a child. She was hot. I asked whether she felt feverish, but of course, she said, “No.”

Needing proof, I got a digital thermometer and asked her to place it in her mouth. Surprisingly, she did without question. In the moments that I waited for it to beep, I considered my next steps. If it were high, I would take her to the emergency room. But if it weren’t, what would I do? She looked terrible. I was concerned about her contracting pneumonia, one of the complications that often kill young children and senior citizens alike.

The thermometer beeped. My mom didn’t have her glasses on. She couldn’t read the numbers, but I could – 102.7 degrees.

“I’m going to take you to the emergency room. Go ahead and get ready,” I said. I left my mother alone before she could give me a debate. However, when I returned, she showed me the thermometer reading again. Now it read, 93.3!

“Uh…that’s not a good number either,” I said. With a sigh, she conceded, and we were off to the hospital. I’d passed the first test – having the courage to discuss health issues with my mother.

For many adult children, it can be tough to step into the role of a care partner. Many of us don’t think or talk about what it means to provide support to an older loved one until a calamity forces us. Having uncomfortable discussions about advanced directives, finances, or physical and emotional needs means preparing for a day when your parent or loved one is no longer the person you remember. It’s acknowledging that loss may be closer than we would like.

For the care recipient, the big fear is relinquishing one’s independence. With each diagnosis or significant health incidence, an older adult’s world can shrink as the activity he has control over dwindles a little more. However, the alternative of waiting until a catastrophic health event comes with financial, emotional and physical risks that are far worse than the discomfort of having conversations before something awful happens.

When we arrived at the emergency room, the healthcare team at the hospital saw Mom immediately. Their focus, as it should have been, was on her and only referenced me when they asked her whether she wanted me in the room while they treated her. They took her vitals, asked questions, and Mom was ready with answers. She had her social security and insurance cards along with descriptions of her medications in a transparent, plastic covering. She readily answered the staff’s questions.

After running a test on a sample, they determined that she indeed had the flu. They gave her meds for the fever and any possible infections. A couple of hours later, we were on our way back home. And within a few days, her health was back to normal.

This incident was my first experience as a care partner for my mother. Fortunate for me, I fell into the shallow end of the pool.

Holiday Tips for Caregivers

150 150 Hannan Center

by Ariel Kennedy, Hannan Center Social Work Intern

While the holidays can be stressful for everyone, they are especially stressful for caregivers. Here are some tips to help you cope with the holiday stress:

ASK FOR HELP – Adding holiday planning on top of your normal daily tasks is a lot. Ask for help from family members or friends. This could be help with cooking the meal, cleaning, or help with caregiving duties. You might also want to look into caregiving help in the form of adult day centers or respite care programs.

SIMPLIFY – You’re busy enough in your day-to-day life, there’s no reason to go overboard for the holidays! Instead of cooking the whole meal, consider asking people to bring some of the dishes, such as dessert. You might also want to consider having the meal catered. Don’t feel pressured to go all out with the decorations or holiday activities. Instead pick a few things that are really important to you and your family and leave the rest out.

START NEW TRADITIONS – Just because you might not be able to do all of your old traditions doesn’t mean that you can’t make new ones! If cooking a full meal is too much, start the tradition of eating out at a favorite restaurant, or having a potluck. If going out to a movie theater is too difficult, have everyone gather at your home, or the home of a family member to watch a movie. Finding new traditions can help alleviate the loss of old ones.

MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF – It’s easy to feel overwhelmed during the holidays so make sure to set aside some time for yourself. Whether it’s exercising, taking a hot bath, meditation, or catching up on your tv shows, make sure to set some time aside to unwind and take care of yourself.

PLAN AHEAD – Planning ahead will allow you to have more time with your family as well as time for yourself. Take time well before the holiday to plan out your menu and to contact your guests to invite them and let them know if they should bring anything. Having a plan in place will help you see what you may need assistance with and what traditions will be more hassle than they are worth.

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There’s No Good Time for the Talk

150 150 Hannan Center

by Vincent Tilford, Executive Director

During Thanksgiving weekend, I had what I thought was a reasonable conversation with a relative who in so many words told me to mind my own business.

My uncle, who is eighty-one-years- old, lives alone. His wife died many years ago, and his closest blood relative is his niece, my wife. When we were visit- ing him this past holiday, he proudly showed me some of his home improvements that he had completed — a remodeled bathroom and a basement that he had turned into his “man cave.” Uncle has always been a wiz with his hands, so it was no surprise that he did all of that work.

My problem, and it’s clearly mine and not his, was that while walking the house admiring his handiwork everywhere I looked I saw hazards – a new 32-inch high soaker tub; bathrooms without grab bars, and looming stairways with loose carpeting on the steps and no handrails. When I rst visited him in the 1990s, I never thought about these things, but now they seem like death traps, at least for someone who’s isn’t as spry as he used to be. I’ve known him for nearly thirty years and have watched as time has bent his back and carved him into just skin and gristle. Less than ve and a half feet tall, he’s a small man who moves a little slower and more gingerly than he did ten years ago (but so do I).

I started the conversation with affirming statements.

“Love the man cave,” I said. “And that’s a sweet remodel that you did to the bathroom.” He nodded. Uncle was never one to show much emotion, but his lips turned up slightly into what I thought was a smile, so I eased into my concerns.

“You know, I had a hard time stepping into and out of your tub. It must be a challenge for you.”

“I manage,” he replied. Not hearing the warning in his voice and guring that my positive statements had softened him, I plowed ahead.

“Let me put up some grab bars for you before we go. I could also nail the carpet down on the stairs so that you don’t trip.”

“I don’t need grab bars; I have no problems getting into and out of the tub. And don’t worry about the carpet. I plan to have someone redo it in a couple of weeks.” He left me no openings; still, I laid out my arguments.

“We could take care of it now. It wouldn’t be a problem at all. Accidents are never planned. What if you fall when no one is around, and you can’t move? It could be days before someone checks on you.”

“I understand, but I’m ne.” And then he left the room.

My conversation with my uncle didn’t exactly go as planned, but I don’t regret having it. Talking with your loved ones about aging is hard and sometimes they aren’t receptive. Most of us equate getting older with becoming more frail and sickly. We fear losing our independence or that our health will take a downward spiral the moment we admit to ourselves and others that we need help. However, not talking about it leaves us all vulnerable to emotional, nancial and physical stresswhen a challenging situation arises and decisions have to be made about someone’s care.

Most caregivers and their care recipients whose life-changing events were sudden wish that they had had a plan to handle care sooner when everyone can be a full participant in the conversations about where and how will care be provided. What will it cost and what can we afford? What steps can we take to make it possible to live as long as possible in one’s home? Are there potential family caregivers who can afford the time and emotional energy needed for caregiving? What resources are available to support the caregiver and the recipient?

As we enter the holiday season, we should make plans to talk about our future and long-term care with our family and those who may be part of our care network. There’s never a perfect time to talk about long-term care and planning and it may be uncomfortable. But the cost of not doing so is far higher than any short-term discomfort.

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I’m 28 and Planning My Retirement

600 225 Tara Franey

by Misha LJ Stallworth, Director of Arts and Culture

Of all the moments I should have known my last relationship wouldn’t work out, one of the most glaring is that while I have been thinking about retirement for years, he hadn’t even considered it yet.

Perhaps he is more typical of people my age—some of my peers are contributing to employee benefits programs if they have the option—but how many are really dreaming and planning for life after required scheduling?

In this American culture that so values being busy, I think it’s difficult for my peers and much of society to consider a time when they won’t be working. However, I know from my many relationships with people over 60 that the image of shifting into a life of endless daytime television is not what retirement looks like.

Retirement, as a withdrawal from working society, is actually a misnomer. I have met and worked with so many people who have started a brand new life with different goals, learning, and accomplishments after having finished their first careers. They have started businesses, cultivated creative skills, and found new ways to serve their communities. There are people like Mr. Rodwan who took time to develop his photography skills and published a book with his son. He’s participated in performances with his work and recently had a Midtown gallery opening for his art. Or Mr. Charlton who started a second career as an executive in technology. My grandmother is 84 years oldand has had at least 3 retirements, each time beginning a new project and now serves on organizational boards, mayoral committees as well as writing and publishing her own books.

Because of these people I’ve been so fortunate to know, I think of my life in chapters. This career I’m working on now is one chapter characterized by goals I want to achieve, having less autonomy in creating my schedule, and the necessity of income. I’m dreaming about the next chapter when I have more freedom and flexibility to publish my book of poetry, work in animal rescue, and launch whatever world-changing initiatives I fancy. Retirement is not ceasing to work; it’s ceasing to work on one thing and moving on to the next great adventure. Who wouldn’t want to plan for that?

AGE OUT LOUD: Mr. Vito Valdez

600 350 Tara Franey

Mr. Vito Valdez

Studio Instructor at Detroit Institute of Arts
and frequent contributor to Ellen Kayrod Gallery
Vito Valdez has been an artist since he was a teenager producing commercial signs. He first exhibited his work while serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam conflict and then went on to attend the Center for Creative Studies where he focused on painting. He began showing internationally while living in Montreal and then through an artist residency in Brussels. Vito returned to Detroit in 1995 to teach and work on community public art projects in Southwest Detroit and at the U.S./Canadian border.

Since 1999, Vito has taught Hannan seniors in the Community Arts program at the Detroit Institute of Arts. He says, “this community partnership still continues and has enriched my life – becoming a senior myself in the process!” When asked what he enjoys most about partnering with Hannan he noted it is the opportunity to learn alongside his students, “sharing stories of life while creatively enjoying the art of making – hands, mind and heart!”

What does it mean to Age Out Loud to Vito? He shares that staying alert, active, and having fun is being alive, all while being engaged in positive change for the common good, society in general, family, community, and planet.

How do you Age Out Loud?  We’d love to know and to possibly feature you in Hannan’s newsletter and other media channels.  Drop an email to Tara Franey at tfraney@hannan.org.

Director’s Corner

620 350 Tara Franey

Shortly after the passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) a couple months ago, I read a poll that asked the question, “Will the repeal of Obamacare affect you?” Sixty-percent of the respondents shared that revoking the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) would not have an impact on them. However, President Obama’s signature legislation was broad and touched every American. It’s also complex as many people who study these issues for a living can attest.

No one likes to pay for or think about insurance until you need it. However, if you are wondering whether the bill might have an impact on you, here are a few topics to consider.

Pre-existing conditions – As we age, pre-existing conditions become a greater concern. These concerns are not always catastrophic illnesses like cancer or Alzheimer’s. Many people have or will have chronic conditions – hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol – that fall under the term “pre-existing.” Questions you might ask as you try to understand the AHCA’s impact should include – “what, if any, pre-existing conditions are covered and if so, will you be able to afford the premium?”

Affordable plans – Health insurers price their products by spreading the cost of insurance over a large pool of customers. Older customers utilize health services more than younger ones, and seniors cost more to insure. Under the American Health Care Act, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that a health plan will eventually cost 10% less than it would have cost under Obamacare. However, over the next couple of years, premiums will spike – 15% to 20% more than they are today. Seniors on fixed incomes may find that they cannot afford the higher costs which may result in many older adults becoming uninsured. As these seniors are priced out of insurance, the remaining customers in the insured pool are younger and healthier which allows insurers to lower premiums.

Essential benefits – Obamacare required employers and the marketplace to offer insurance that covered ten health services, from ambulatory care (think of your doctor visits) to prescription drugs and preventative services. AHCA will allow states to waive the requirement on employers to provide insurance plans that address the essential benefits. Given rising health care premiums, employers could decide to not offer health insurance or shift a greater burden of the costs to employees.

Medicare – AHCA would repeal the additional 0.9 percent payroll tax on higher-income workers. The removal of this Obamacare provision would reduce the Hospital Insurance Trust fund by $117.3 billion over the next ten years. The result would mean that Medicare will run out of money four years earlier than under the Affordable Care Act.

There are more issues to explore including the cut in Medicaid expansion that will affect older adults. In thinking about whether AHCA affects us today, we must also keep in mind that whatever Congress decides will also affect us when we are in our eighties which is when we will have our highest health care demands. If you want more information on how AHCA might impact you, go to this website link from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

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