Old, Black and Eeking Out a Living

12/22/2016, 1:48 p.m.
For 16 years after she graduated from Hunter College with a major in political science and a minor in psychology, ...
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Asked if she met people in similar circumstances, she said, "I have met people who are far worse off." Her Easter Seals internship involves field monitoring. I go to the agencies that host an intern and interview a director of the program or a supervisor. And then I interview the intern from Easter Seals. And that's when I found out more stuff than I care to know."

She was interviewed for this article not only because of her willingness to share her personal experiences but also because of her internship visits that can take her to South Brooklyn, though she also visits other areas of the city. "There was a man, 73 years old, very, very tall, very, very lanky. You can tell he was a healthy, tall, lanky young man in his day; now he's a tall lanky frail old man," she said. "He's paying $500 a month rent in a basement apartment that's drafty, has intermittent heat, has rodents and insects and he only eats one meal a day because that's all he can afford. It's stuff like that that drives me crazy. Drives me to shame."

"There's another situation where I met someone who had been in social services all of her career and she tried to get back in to the field. No one would let her back in" Johnson said. "She lives on and off with her daughter so she never knows where she's going to sleep one night to the next and she's only 62 years old. There are a lot of stories like that. A lot."

"I ran into a vet on one of my interviews. He was 63 years old and had a bad leg and that happened while he was in the service. This man was still trying to get treatment after 10 years and he's not getting all of his sedatives so Easter Seals is assisting him in getting treatments and the rest of his benefits. How can this country let you be a vet and not take care of the basic things and because he's older and he's been through what he's been through he doesn't have the patience and has lost the strength in one's self to be able to go through and navigate this process."

Employment discrimination against the elderly is ferocious. "You'd be surprised at what's happening. We're all between 55, and I'd say even 85 years old," she estimated about seniors who want to work. "A lot of mature workers, all of us, are trying to get back into the workforce and many are paralyzed with fear so they're stuck where they are."