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Copy link to share with friends. Support systems for aging Black women are disappearing when they're needed most. Karen Jennings had hit rock bottom. Four years after the market crash ofher life savings and investments were gone. Jennings has always taken pride in holding steady jobs — jobs she has loved — like teaching and working at a parish.

But inthe Virginia native declared bankruptcy. As an only child who never married or had children, Jennings — now age 65 — had few relatives to lean on for support. Jennings is part of a growing of Black women who are aging alone. By1 in 4 Americans will be 65 years or older, according to the Census Bureau. Gaps in the U. But research published in by American and Canadian sociologists shows that elder Black U.

These figures are projected to hit over 7 percent for Black women and nearly 6 percent for Black men by That means 1. These sweeping demographic shifts have been decades in the making, say experts. Meanwhile, the economic burden of aging alone is compounded by the wealth gap Black women have faced for decades due to systemic racism.

Growing economic independence over time has empowered women to leave unhappy relationships or avoid them altogether. But less robust kinship networks are also dismantling one of the pillars of support Black women could count upon, says Ashton Verdery, a sociology professor at Penn State who co-authored the research. Black women today outlive Single blk woman men 10 percentage points more than inon average, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Beyond not having kin to help, loneliness in itself is a threat: Stronger social relationships reduce the risk of mortality by 50 percent, research shows. Black Americans face more lifetime stress than White Americans because of racial inequality, discrimination and segregation — stress that also strains relationships, says Debra Umberson, co-director of the Aging and Longevity Center at the University of Texas, Austin. Those economic pressures can further tilt a playing field never level to begin with.

Boomers, like Jennings, lost that financial net just as they needed to prepare for old age expenses, from accessible home modifications to medical costs not covered by Medicare. Meanwhile, their social support is shrinking too. Without kin, friendships and community relationships are crucial. For Jennings, now a part-time teacher, a tight-knit group of five female friends — along with school colleagues and her ironclad church community — have been a source of joy. When a friend died three years ago, she was devastated. Physicians must be made aware that older adults could lack people at home to monitor their health, experts say.

Karen Jennings wears a personal safety device and posts often on Facebook to reassure friends that she is safe. Verdery points to a model France implemented after a deadly heat wave in killed thousands Single blk woman including many seniors — where local governments keep a database of elderly residents and make regular phone call check-ins.

Increased female participation in the labor force has enabled older women to exit or avoid unsatisfying marriages more easily. She hopes to someday travel to Quebec, though paying off her car is her priority this year. Still, Jennings lives with lingering worry. She wears a personal safety device and posts often on Facebook to Single blk woman her friends that she is safe.

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