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In the coming years, two demographic shifts will combine to create one new reality: The number of older Americans will skyrocket as the Baby Boomers hit their senior years; at the same time, the Latino population in America continues to soar in all age groups.

Thusly, Colorado, like many other states,  is now home to a fast-growing older Latino populace.

The needs of the aging Latinos in Colorado look very similar to those of other maturing groups: access to health care, transportation, nutrition information and adequate housing. However, research from national organization Hispanics in Philanthropy has shown that older Latinos are less likely to use services from “mainstream” providers and are more likely to engage family members in their decisions. Sometimes, they become disconnected from service providers because of language issues, biases and lack of cultural competencies.

Enter the Colorado Latino Age Wave, an initiative from the Rose Community Foundation, the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado and Community First Foundation with funding from Colorado Health Foundation and Hispanics in Philanthropy. The initiative focuses on highlighting the strengths of the older Latino population and advocating for services and support for older Latinos in the Denver and Boulder area.

“Latinos don’t access services at the same level as other populations,” said Cec Ortiz, project manager for the Latino Age Wave. “They don’t get services as the same rates, and families are in some ways obligated. There is a feeling that though we feel independent about living in our homes, we are very connected to our families. That’s a big deal.”

So the effort is about better connecting older Latinos and their families to the community and the offerings within the community. Specifically, the Colorado Latino Age Wave is split in three areas: policy advocacy, fellowships and grants to local nonprofits to develop innovative programming for this population.

In 2012, the Colorado Latino Age Wave gave out ten $5,000 planning grants to groups that focus on everything from hunger and transportation to Medicare/Medicaid and aging in place. The nonprofits will present their ideas in the coming weeks, and eventually four of the groups will be picked to receive two $25,000, two-year grants to implement their ideas.

“When we look at the national scene, there is no money. We need to rethink how we provide services to our Latino elders,” Ortiz said.

That includes looking at the best ways to connect with Latino seniors, including growing relationships with them and their families.

“It’s a familiar connection. People underestimate it, but it’s all about the relationship,” Ortiz said. “If you think about the critical model that we live in, it’s hard to engage Latino communities.”

To help with this, Ortiz has three fellows to serve as ambassadors for the Colorado Latino Age Wave. Mary Young, outreach specialist/travel trainer for Boulder County’s Via, is one of those fellows. As a part of that role, Young is working on a project that will help encourage Latino seniors to use public transportation. One of the other fellows will look at senior Latino veterans.

Lastly, Ortiz and those involved with the Colorado Latino Age Wave will concentrate on policy—ensuring that older Latinos are represented in the legislative process. Like the other segments of the initiative, Ortiz’s policy goal is to ensure this segment is not overlooked.

“We don’t want anyone to change their agendas,” she said. “We just want to be apart of their agendas.”

 

[Details] To see the community assessment on older Latinos in Colorado, visit rcfdenver.org/agewave, or check out Hispanics in Philanthropy’s report on the national Latino Age Wave. 

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email no info send march17th/09

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