Racial Disparities in Long-Term Care for Retirees

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Long-term care for retirees is a critical issue in the United States. As the population ages, the demand for long-term care services is expected to increase. However, racial disparities in access, quality, and affordability of long-term care persist, which has significant implications for the health and well-being of retirees of color.

A recent study in the Justice in Aging, September 2022, highlighted glaring racial disparities in the availability and distribution of long-term care services for minority retirees. This has the potential to impact these individuals’ overall quality of life profoundly. Given the issue’s significance, we must address and understand these disparities in long-term care to provide equitable solutions for all retirees, regardless of their race or ethnicity.

The Issue Brief also stated: 80% of Black patients were admitted to only 28% of nursing facilities, and these facilities provided poorer quality of care.

Access to Long-Term Care

Access to long-term care services is a significant challenge for retirees of color. According to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, people of color are less likely to have access to private long-term care insurance than white retirees. This disparity in access to insurance often means that people of color must rely on public programs like Medicaid or pay out of pocket for their care. However, these options can also be limited for people of color. For example, Medicaid has eligibility requirements based on income and assets, which may exclude retirees with limited financial resources.

Another significant issue affecting access to long-term care for retirees of color is the location of long-term care facilities. Studies have shown that long-term care facilities are more likely to be located in areas with a higher white population. This means that people of color may have to travel further to access care, which can be a significant barrier for those with mobility or transportation issues.

Quality of Care

Retirees of color are also more likely to receive lower-quality long-term care services than their white counterparts. Studies have shown that people of color are more likely to receive care in lower-quality nursing homes and are less likely to receive care from licensed professionals. Additionally, people of color are more likely to experience discrimination and mistreatment in long-term care facilities.

One reason for the disparities in quality of care is the lack of diversity in the long-term care workforce. According to a report by PHI, a national organization focused on improving the quality of long-term care, 61% of direct care workers are people of color. However, people of color are underrepresented in management positions, with only 21% of nursing home administrators identifying as people of color. This lack of diversity can lead to a lack of cultural competency among care providers and contribute to the mistreatment of retirees of color.


Long-term care costs are a significant concern for retirees of all races, but it is particularly challenging for people of color. According to a report by the AARP, people of color are more likely to have lower incomes and less wealth than white retirees. This means that long-term care costs can be more difficult for people of color to afford. Additionally, people of color are less likely to have access to retirement savings plans like 401(k)s or pensions. This means that people of color may have to rely on Social Security benefits, which may not be enough to cover the cost of long-term care.


Addressing the racial disparities in long-term care for retirees will require a multifaceted approach. Some solutions include:

  1. Improving access to long-term care insurance for retirees of color by promoting public programs like Medicaid and Medicare.
  2. Increasing the availability of long-term care facilities in areas with high populations of people of color.
  3. Increasing diversity in the long-term care workforce by providing training and career advancement opportunities for people of color.
  4. Providing more affordable retirement savings options for people of color, such as employer-sponsored retirement plans and tax incentives for individual retirement savings.
  5. Addressing discriminatory practices in long-term care facilities through improved training and accountability measures.


Racial disparities in long-term care for retirees are a significant issue in the United States. Access, quality, and affordability of long-term care services are all areas where disparities exist, and these disparities have significant implications for the health and well-being of retirees of color. Addressing these disparities will require a concerted effort from policymakers, employers, and long-term care providers.


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