When we analyze the current state of Hispanic older adults in the United States the results paint a horrifying scenario; a scenario in which Hispanic elders are living in poverty, suffering hunger and dealing with inadequate access to healthcare. There is much improvement needed in the policies and programs that serve this aging segment of the population, in order to lessen the hardships that they currently face.
The numbers speak for themselves:
- At 20%, Hispanic older adults have the highest level of poverty of any senior group in the nation.
- Almost one in four Hispanic older adults face food insecurity.
- In 2013, Hispanic older adults were much more likely to be uninsured than non-Hispanic seniors (about 4.2% versus .8%).
Though these numbers are alarming, they are often lost in the minds of the general population because they do not have a face to connect them to or a story to remember. As the leading national organization working to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their families, and caregivers, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) works to bring these realities to the forefront so those alarming numbers are not only remembered, but also drastically changed.
In an attempt to have a full picture of the current conditions of this often overlooked population, NHCOA hosts yearly regional conferences in areas with the highest concentration of Hispanic seniors and Latino families. Going directly to the communities allows NHCOA to create a space where seniors, their families and caregivers, as well as community leaders and professionals can engage in discussions to better the livelihood of Hispanic seniors. Each regional meeting has two parts: and Empowerment and Civic Engagement Training and an Open Forum.
The Empowerment & Civic Engagement Training (ECET) is NHCOA’s two-day leadership training. It is designed to train intergenerational community leaders on how to mobilize their communities and create change through advocacy campaigns. To date more than 1,000 community leaders nationwide have successfully completed the training.
After the training comes the Open Forum, a space that brings together seniors, professionals, local policy makers and community leaders. Hispanic older adults along with their families and caregivers share their personal stories and outline the daily concerns and struggles that they face. The forum gives them an opportunity to connect with local resources and information to help advance their quality of life.
This year our regional conferences are focusing community solutions that can be implemented in order to begin solving some of our seniors’ most pressing issues. Our series of conferences began in June in Miami, and will continue in Los Angeles later this month. Once all of our conferences have concluded, we will compile and analyze the information gathered at each Open Forum. The results of this analysis will be included in our State of Hispanic Older Adults, which will be released in September in Washington, DC. (The 2015 version of this report can be found on the NHCOA website).
There is still a long way to go in order to solve the vast amount of problems faced by Hispanic elders however, NHCOA is confident that as we continue our community engagement we will be able to work together and achieve a stronger America in which our seniors can age with dignity and in the best possible health.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.