Diana CampoamorStrategic Giving Refines Senior Programs to Really Aid America’s Low-Income Retirees

By: Diana Campoamor In: Philanthropy

8 Oct 2013

Philanthropy has the means to make strategic social investments to elevate the interests of America’s elders, especially for the over-65 U.S. Latino population. As the Baby Boom generation ages, there are increased opportunities and compelling strategies for addressing their needs.

Philanthropies can help create better paths for America’s seniors to thrive with their post-retirement choices. The ranks of U.S. Latino elders are expected to grow by 224 percent by 2030, and they often find themselves socially isolated, with low incomes and high needs of linguistically appropriate and culturally competent services.

As a group, Latino seniors have double the poverty rate of older Americans generally and are less likely than their non-Latino peers to qualify for Medicare and Social Security benefits. They have higher rates of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, as well.

Reviewing social service strategies to help the older population is economically sound from an ounce of prevention health perspective, as well as a matter of equity in raising the quality of life for all of our low-income senior citizens. The country will also be better off by creating opportunities for those who wish to participate as community advocates, peer counselors, or childcare providers.

For older Latinos, service referrals often come by word of mouth from neighbors or friends of sons and daughters. When they’re lucky, they hear something like: “There’s a place where abuelitos (grandparents) can go to get social services or meet others like them.”

Other times an illness can lead to a social work referral. Vida Senior Centers participant “E.M.” was forced to quit his job, which required driving, when he underwent brain surgery. He was listless and disoriented after the surgery when he first visited the program in a leafy neighborhood of Washington, D.C. It provides bilingual social services, nutrition counseling, exercise sessions, and medication management, among other services.

He was assisted in his native language with medication management and transportation to medical appointments. He eventually was able to recover and start helping other Latino participants. He was even chosen by his peers to represent them as the King in their annual contest.

Vida Senior Centers is a former grantee of Hispanics in Philanthropy, which launched its Latino Aging Initiative in 2011 with a groundbreaking national survey, “The Latino Age Wave: What Changing Ethnic Demographics Mean for the Future of Aging in the United States.” It discussed opportunities for philanthropic investments to address the needs of this very rapidly growing population in culturally competent, linguistically appropriate ways.

Since publication of the study two years ago, HIP’s Funders Collaborative for Strong Latino Communities joined with the Rose Community Foundation, the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado, The Atlantic Philanthropies, and other Colorado funders to create the Latino Age Wave Initiative, beginning in the Denver area. It has conducted an assessment of needs of older Latinos and its first class of senior fellows has bolstered its capacity.

In California earlier this year, The Atlantic Philanthropies, The California Wellness Foundation, and The SCAN Foundation funded HIP to create the California Latino Age Wave Initiative, which advocates on behalf of the needs of older Latinos and recently announced the appointment of its first round of three California Latino Age Wave Fellows, from Vallejo, Long Beach, and San Diego.

In each of the two states, a senior fellow is working on transportation training that helps isolated older Latinos regain the ability and confidence of being as mobile as possible by learning to plan trips on public transportation, read maps, and take advantage of low-cost transit.

”I didn’t know how empowering it could be for people who were no longer driving,” said California Senior Fellow Judi Bonilla. She implemented such a program for the La Mesa area of San Diego and hopes to replicate it countywide. “With mobility loss, everything changes. After 10 or 20 years, your sense of what you can be is diminished.”

The goals of the Hispanics in Philanthropy Aging Initiative are to:

  • Support development and expansion of programs addressing Latino aging issues
  • Expand advocacy efforts around issues of aging in Latino communities
  • Engage more Latino older adults as advocates for policies that improve the economic security and well-being of Latino elders
  • Convene funders and other stakeholders to share best practices for improving the well-being of Latino older adults

HIP welcomes inquiries from donors interested in learning more about this work. It is expanding this and other initiatives as it plans to commemorate HIP’s 30th anniversary of successful strides on behalf of greater philanthropic funding and training for Latino-led and Latino-serving nonprofits in the United States and Latin America, and increased hiring and promotion of Latinos in U.S. philanthropy.

For more information, please visit the HIP website at www.HIPonline.org or phone 415-837-0427.

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Diana Campoamor is the President of Hispanics in Philanthropy, a national membership network of funders that seeks to increase resources for the Latino and Latin American civil sector, increase Latino participation and leadership in philanthropy, and foster policy change to enhance equity and inclusiveness.

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