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Harris County and Houston are known as young communities because their proportion of elders, those over age 65, is small relative to the U.S. In Harris County, elders make up only 7.4 percent of the total population as compared to a 12.4 percent in the entire country. Even as a smaller segment of the community, elders over age 85, 69 percent of whom are women, are fastest growing segment of our population, and are twice as likely as men their age to live alone. These elders have unique needs for health and social services that may help them remain active and healthy.

Along with children, elders who are members of underserved neighborhoods have additional burdens such as gender, ethnic and racial background, and age that increases their vulnerability to disease and disability. Even with Medicare and Medicaid it may become difficult for many elders to access care due to mobility and transportation limitations. As longevity and health status improve for many elders, poverty among minority elders continues to rise as communities learn to attend to needs of aging care givers or to elders who are isolated.

To help identify and address the needs of the community's most vulnerable elders with the additional consequences of life-long environmental and other stresses, poverty, isolation, inadequate accesses to primary and mental health care, as well as increased disability, St. Luke's Episcopal Health Charities (SLEHC) has increased its involvement in several projects. Among them are:
  • SLEHC is leading a group of researchers and aging specialists in a project that establishes and will track critical indicators of health in Harris County. The Elder Report Card is the outcome of work from a collaboration that includes: The University of Texas School of Public Health, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Woman's University and health care institutions such as Harris County Department of Health, Houston Department of Health and Human Services, Sheltering Arms Senior Services, Gateway to Care and others, United Way, AAA, and others. The first group of indicators has been mapped and appears on the SLEHC as noted above as well as the and Care for Elders website.
  • In the service of The Episcopal Diocese of Texas Community Outreach Ministries, SLEHC has collaborated with Senior Ministries, to sponsor "Hand in Hand with Seniors", a series of informative and enjoyable lunchtime programs for elders. the presentations, offered throughout the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, provide cutting-edge information on resources and findings that are of interest to individuals who are over 50 years old and take an active role in remaining engaged learners.

SLEHC is also working as a partner with other organizations and agencies on several community-wide initiatives, among them are:

  • Sacred Vocation Partnership (SVP) is a project developed in partnership with The University of Texas School of Public Health and UT School of Medicine’s John P. McGovern Center for Health and the Human Spirit, that transforms the attitude of care providers in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes to serve as healers, not harmers, to seniors and others under their care.
  • SLEHC is an active member and serves on the governing council of the Care For Elders partnership, headed by Sheltering Arms Senior Services in Houston. With a four-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the large partnership of nearly 90 institutions, agencies, and individuals in Harris County is creating a viable model for increasing availability, improving access, elevating quality, and advocating for affordability to care and services for vulnerable elders.
  • SLEHC is a member of the Center for Faith and Health Initiatives in the center's work in the Fifth Ward, where a collaborative of pastors and congregation members, many elders themselves, from many churches have established effective ways to reach isolated community elders and provide education and resources to the community.
  • In the Park Place neighborhood, SLEHC leads a collaborative that has brought mobile health care through Shalom Zone to the Vietnamese villages where elders now have access to health care in their own language and in their own communities.

Outcomes of our work with elders will be found and updated in these pages.

Elder Report Card

Learn more about the the status of elders in Harris County including detailed maps covering several key indicators concerning this growing population.

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This site last updated July 9, 2008