New Horizons in Science

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Lessons from the lives of older homeless adults

Sunday, October 11, 2015 -
3:30pm to 4:30pm

An improving economy and local services may be making a dent in homelessness nationwide, but Margot Kushel is finding troubling developments on the streets. As a physician and researcher who has treated homeless patients in the San Francisco Bay area since the 1990s, she works with a population that is rapidly aging and carrying a heavy burden of chronic illness. Kushel and her research group are studying the lives of homeless older adults and their families, focusing on the growing numbers of 50-and-older adults who lost their homes as affordable housing disappeared in many cities. In a three-year study of 350 older homeless adults in Oakland, Calif., Kushel and her collaborators are encountering life stories that challenge many of the assumptions that currently drive policies and medical care for the homeless. They are asking why grandpa so often ends up on the streets — confused, unsafe and chronically ill — and whether public policy is contributing to the problem. Trying to treat the elderly as they struggle to survive on the streets, she says, is a matter of "doing the best we can do in an absurd situation." Social media hashtag: #OldandHomeless


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