As more and more people in the baby boomer generation become the elderly population, the United States becomes older. Included are the many Latinos, which by year 2019 is projected to be the largest racial and ethnic minority elderly population in the United States.
Caring for our grandparents is an intrinsic part of the Latino culture. Latino families are known for their values of respect and caring for older people. In the minds of many Latino individuals, there is no thought of having their elderly parents and/or grandparents being taken care of by other people than their own family and within their own homes. This is sort of a strong expectation that is part of the Latino upbringing. We experience that no matter how many years there has been since a Latino moved to the United States, this aspect of the Latino culture about caring for our seniors remains intact. This explains the fact that for a Latino family deciding to place a parent, grandparent or relative in a nursing home is a decision of last resort. Unfortunately, when having to place a loved one in a nursing home is the only option, our Latino families and their "abuelitos" receive services that do not meet their physical, emotional and social needs in a manner that meets their cultural needs and expectations.
As time passes, in today’s society, being able to provide care for a senior at home becomes more common for our Latino families and more difficult at the same time. More of our Latino seniors are living with chronic deceases and experience economic insecurity. We have observed that more of our Latino seniors need specialized services due to early symptoms of dementia, need assistance to take their medications consistently and to be able to access services in the community. As family demands increase, some Latino families who are the caregivers for their "abuelitos" are having to look for support services that at least can help them during the day. That is when services such as those provided at Ibero’s Centro de Oro Seniors Program play an important role in the care of our Latino seniors. The services at the Centro de Oro Seniors Program aim to reduce the sense of isolation that seniors may experience when their caregivers have to go to work outside of the home. At the same time, the caregivers can feel more comfortable knowing that their loved ones are in a secure and welcoming place where they interact with others, participate in educational and recreational activities, and receive nutritional balanced breakfasts and lunches.
There are not enough bicultural and bilingual services in the Rochester area to be able to meet all the physical, emotional and social needs that surface when Latino people become older and unable to provide for their own needs. Even though transportation service is provided to and from the Centro de Oro, we have an increasing number of seniors who live outside of the city of Rochester where our transportation does not reach. More financial and human resources are needed to enhance and expand services for our Latino seniors and their families — a spectrum of services that will meet their increasing needs and will maintain our Latino seniors living happy and more independently in the community.
DeJesús is vice president of Ibero-American Action League’s family services division, and Rivera is director of Centro de Oro in Rochester.