Future needs of Latino boomers may go unmet
Orange County  Register (Calif.)
Oct. 4, 2006

Jane Glenn Haas

Is there anyone who doesn't know the boomers are turning 60?

Not only turning 60 at the rate of one every seven seconds but doing it with style and gusto.

That "forever young and forever zesty" comparison, however, doesn't work for thousands of Americans, particularly Latino Americans, who are about to grow old without access to preventive health care services and other community supports, including work opportunities and affordable housing. A new report by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, funded by MetLife Foundation, says only 46 percent of American communities have begun planning to address the needs of boomers, a demographic that will send our aging population soaring to 71.5 million, or one in five Americans, by 2030.

That's twice the number of elders on Social Security and Medicare today.

"Latino aging isn't even being discussed among themselves, let alone others," says Fernando Torres-Gil, an associate dean at UCLA and director of the Center for Policy Research on Aging. Torres-Gil was the nation's first secretary of aging, appointed by President Clinton.

He says Latinos focus instead on education, civil rights, crime, jobs and the needs of younger family members.

"It's not in their DNA that they may someday be old, and that concerns me,"
he says. "Our job is to put forward an agenda for them."

Why specifically for Latinos? Well, first there is the sheer number of aging Latinos. In Orange County, Calif., for example, their 60-plus population will explode 140 percent by 2020.

Included in this number will be the Latino women who have legal status, have worked in homes as housekeepers, never received Social Security and now find they don't qualify for Medicare and similar public services.

"What are we going to do with them?" asks Gloria Reyes, executive director of Abrazar, a Latino senior center in Westminster, Calif.

"To a degree, first- and second-generation Latinos think of the whole family as always together," Reyes says. "They don't know how to discuss issues like setting up a family trust. In fact, the parents would be insulted."