America Is Not Ready for the Latino Age Wave

By Rockeymoore, Maya | Aging Today, January/February 2011 | Go to article overview
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America Is Not Ready for the Latino Age Wave


Rockeymoore, Maya, Aging Today


With the number of older adults expected to double in coming decades, popular media coverage about the aging of the U.S. population has focused almost exclusively on the retirement of the baby boom generation and the increasing demands that an aging population will place on the nation's budget. Virtually overlooked has been another phenomenon of equal importance: the shifting ethnic composition of America's older adults.

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the United States will become majority-minority by 2042. Much of this shift will be driven by the growth of the Latino population, which is expected to more than double, from 48.4 million in 2009 to 106.2 million people by the year 2050. And, although Census figures indicate that people of color will make up about 42 percent of the elderly population by 2050, they are likely to be the majority of older adults by the year 2070.

Given these changes, it is imperative to assess whether our nation's mainstream aging infrastructure is prepared to meet the challenge of serving a diverse older population. Furthermore, the needs of Latino and other ethnic older adults must be understood not only from the perspective of whether general aging assets exist in communities where they live, but also whether they have equal access to these resources.

STUDY AUDITS AAAS ON DIVERSITY SUPPORTS, SERVICES

In 2010, Hispanics in Philanthropy commissioned a study in an effort to better understand the extent to which the country's aging network is prepared to assist Latino older adults. Among several assessments in the study, the authors conducted an audit of 24 randomly selected Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) to determine the amount of information and support available for Spanish speakers. This audit revealed the following:

*A majority of the audited AAAs proved to be unable to serve Spanishspeaking clients upon first contact. Only 13% had representatives who were proficient in Spanish. The remaining AAAs referred callers to another agency or office that they thought might be able to serve as a translator.

* More than half of the AAAs did not have Spanish hardcopies of their resources or Spanish translations on their websites.

* Nine of the 24 agencies also were unaware whether they could provide any Spanish resources in hardcopy form, and one-fourth was unsure, about whether Spanish resources were available on their websites.

*A majority of the agencies referred callers to online databases to search for services, organizations and other information - a daunting process for older adults or family caregivers with limited technological proficiency or English-speaking abilities.

* Only 2 1 percent of the organizations had their entire website available in Spanish. Sixty-two percent did not have their websites available in. Spanish, and 17 percent had websites that either had a component that was available in Spanish (e.g., a dir rectory) or could be translated into Spanish through another website (i.e., www.NetworkofCare.org).

As the primary agencies intended to serve as a resource to people seeking to identify aging services, the AAA's inability to provide these services to clients seeking Spanish-language assistance underscores that the nation's federally funded aging infrastructure is ill-prepared to handle the needs of an increasingly diverse society.

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