July 2, 2018
The U.S. needs to be prepared to address the real needs of Hispanic older adults
By: Nicolás Peña

This post originally appeared on the NHCOA blog
Este artículo está disponible en español.

Facing midterm elections, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) is committed to empowering Hispanic older adults through their civic participation as a way to guarantee their economic security. “We need to encourage older adults to get informed and to participate in the upcoming election process and also to encourage their family members. This population is drastically growing and is becoming increasingly diverse,” said Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO of NHCOA.

In the framework of NHCOA’s Town Hall: “Building Bridges to Engage Diverse Communities” held in Miami on June 13, 2018, Dr. Cruz emphasized that “the country needs to be prepared to address the real needs of Hispanic older adults, who face economic insecurity, high levels of poverty, lack of affordable housing and great isolation. If a candidate wants to win, they must first acknowledge the needs of this group and win their trust.”

Ivonne Fernandez, AARP’s Florida Associate State Director for Advocacy & Multicultural Affairs, was part of the Caregiving panel, highlighting the impact of older adults’ votes and the resources available for them to be informed. “AARP has launched ‘Be the Difference. Vote’, a campaign designed to maximize the influence of American voters 50 years old and greater in this year’s midterm elections,” Ms. Fernandez shared.

According to AARP, concerns over whether Medicare will be restructured or Social Security will be cut will still be on older adult voters’ minds this election. Also, older adult voters have started to pay more attention to student debt as they try to help grandchildren who have record amounts of student loans.

The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act was another main topic discussed during the town hall. “It was a collective triumph, but we need to continue pushing and supporting the development of a national strategy to support family caregivers,” said Dr. Cruz.

Rima Matsumoto, member of the Partner Engagement Team at NIH’s All of Us Research Program, highlighted the impact of this initiative to promote precision medicine, an emerging approach to disease treatment and prevention that considers differences in people’s lifestyles, environments and biological makeup, including genes.

“NHCOA is very proud to be part of this historical initiative. Latinos face barriers to participation in medical research and this is why a relationship built on trust is essential in our culture. All of Us seeks to transform the relationship between researchers and participants, to demonstrate how health research can benefit our community,” remarked Dr. Cruz.

NHCOA’s Town Hall: “Building Bridges to Engage Diverse Communities” coincided with LGBT Pride Month. In this context, Cindy Brown, Manager of Lambda Living, addressed the need to underscore the importance of federal and state anti-discrimination laws to protect more than a million LGBT older adults living in the United States, a number that will double by 2030.

NASH, the most severe form of fatty liver diseases, is a metabolic disease that if left untreated can lead to non-alcoholic cirrhosis, liver failure, liver cancer, the need for a liver transplant and even death, with the leading cause of death being cardiovascular diseases. NASH will become the leading cause of liver transplantation in the U.S. by 2020. Dr. Suneil Hosmane, Executive Vice President Strategic Development at GENFIT, a NASH Education Program coalition member attended the Town Hall to underline the impact of this disease in about 30 million Americans.

Dr. Maria Pattany, the Clinic Manager of the Miami Field Center, shared among the participants an update from the Hispanic Community Health Study, the largest and most comprehensive health study ever conducted in the Hispanic/Latino population.

Caregivers who care for a family member with Alzheimer’s often find it to be more emotionally stressful than other types of caregiving. Dr. Maria Graig-Custo, house physician for the Wien Center for Alzheimer’s Diseases and Memory Disorder Clinic, shared resources and information to help individuals living with the disease and their families better navigate the challenges.

Annie Wallis, Associate Director of Education at the Parkinson’s Foundation was updating the Aware in Care Campaign, an initiative designed to help people with Parkinson’s disease get the best care possible during a hospital stay.

Year after year, NHCOA has been hosting this Town Hall and creating a culturally and linguistically sensitive space in which Hispanic older adults and their caregivers can come together to discuss issues impacting their lives while connecting with local leaders, advocates, service providers, family members and policymakers to work towards solutions that address the community’s specific needs.

The 2018 NHCOA Regional Conference in Miami, FL  was supported by:  AARP, All of Us Research Program, PhRMA, Univision, Anthem, Independent Living Systems, Inc, Herbalife, Alzheimer’s Association, Matrix, Aetna Foundation, and the NASH Education Program

Click here to view photos from the 2018 NHCOA Regional Conference.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.