Each year, from September 15th to October 15th, the United States recognizes Hispanic Heritage Month as a time to celebrate the incredible contributions of Latinx communities to the nation’s history. More than ever, our country requires a reminder of the many ways that Hispanic heritage is woven into the fabric of our nation. From the highest seats of power in the United States, vitriol toward Hispanic communities has created a sense of fear and isolation among people who may have already faced linguistic, cultural and geographic barriers to aging with health and dignity. This month — and every month — we denounce hate, we honor the stories of our communities’ elders, and we support immigrants, especially those of Hispanic heritage.
Stories from Hispanic Older Adults
More than 58 million people in the U.S. identify as Hispanic or Latinx, making people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority. The Diverse Elders Coalition and our member organizations serve Latinx elders through advocacy and programming, and we have a robust archive of stories and news related to Hispanic heritage on our website:
- Jacqueline Garcia writes about a healthy aging program in San Francisco that encourages Latina seniors to learn traditional dances, like Cuban danzón and the Mexican sandunga waltz — and how dance is improving their health and wellness
- Bryan Pacheco writes about coming out as gay to his dad and how his dad’s support inspired Bryan to become an advocate for Latinx elders
- Meet Agueda González, a Dominican Latina, now 83, who arrived in the United States more than 30 years ago with little more than a suitcase — but whose spirit and hope remain strong today.
- Our friends at LatinosAgainstAlzheimer’s shared two stories from the frontlines of millennial caregiving, showcasing a growing group of young adults who are serving as primary caregivers for older adults with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Want to tell us your story? You can submit your story to our Diverse Elders Stories Initiative to be featured on our website.
Advocating for Latinx Elders at Every Level
Our member organization, the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), has been tirelessly advocating for their communities’ right to age with health and dignity. This summer, NHCOA hosted a series of regional forums and roundtables across the country, bringing Hispanic elders and thoughtleaders to discuss caregiving, civic engagement, and how to reframe the conversation around aging. Their findings were released last week at a congressional briefing in Washington, D.C. We join NHCOA in advocating for Hispanic older adults across the United States through initiatives such as:
- Encouraging diverse older adults to enroll in clinical trials
- Reframing conversations about aging to be more inclusive of Latinx communities and focused on their resilience
- Supporting newly arrived immigrants with programs to help them feel welcomed to the United States and comforted with reminders of home
- Partnering with mainstream health and aging organizations, such as the Alzheimer’s Association, to address the unique needs of Latinx communities
What You Can Do
We want to ensure that Hispanic heritage — and Latinx communities — remain a part of this country’s fabric. Immigration raids, travel bans, racist rhetoric and acts of violence are devastating to Hispanic older adults, their families and their communities. We denounce these threats to our ability to age with health and dignity.
As Nicolás Peña reminds us, civic engagement is the only way to ensure that our communities are helping to create and implement the policies that impact our lives. Mi Familia Vota has an online tool to receive election reminders, get registered to vote, and apply for your absentee ballot in English and Spanish.
You can contact your elected officials to support proposals that improve aging in our communities — such as the RAISE Family Caregiver Act, which was signed into law earlier this year thanks to advocacy efforts from caregivers, families, and advocacy groups — or oppose legislation that would do harm. Find contact information for the White House and your Members of Congress here.
Finally, the Diverse Elders Coalition is currently surveying adults age 60 and older about your experiences accessing benefits like Medicaid, Medicare and SNAP. This anonymous survey takes about 15 minutes to complete and will help us develop tools to better serve diverse elders, including Latinx older adults. You can take the survey in English, Spanish, Chinese, Khmer, Korean, or Vietnamese. Click here to get started.
Stay tuned to the Diverse Elders Coalition blog for more stories and events commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month 2018!
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.