The focus on Latino demographics is frequently centered around the dramatic growth of the number of U.S. Latino youth. It’s hard not to notice that by 2020, one in five U.S. residents between the age of 10 and 19 will be Latino. (Child Trends Analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau (2012))
This dramatic Latino youth profile often overshadows the growth of the Latino senior population. Like the rest of the U.S. population, U.S. Latinos are also experiencing a graying of the baby-boom generation, but at a much more rapid rate than the average population. In the last decade from 2000–2010, Colorado’s population over the age of 55 grew 51.9 percent, while Colorado’s senior Latino population grew 76.9 percent.
The substantial growth of Colorado’s senior population has caught the attention of policy makers at the local and national level, mostly because of health disparities found between the Latino population and the general population.
In response to the growing Latino senior population, The Rose Community Foundation in Denver in partnership with Hispanics in Philanthropy and the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado has created the Colorado Latino Age Wave project. The project is designed to improve the health outlook for Latino seniors and they underscore the urgency of their charge by reporting the following health disparities in Metropolitan Denver:
• 22 percent of Latinos 55-64 lack health coverage, nearly three times as many as non-Hispanic whites.
• 4 percent of Latinos over 65 are uninsured – 10 times the rate of whites (.4 percent)
• The 6.2 percent diabetes rate for Latinos compares to 4.9 percent for all Coloradans. However, age-adjusted death for diabetes among Latinos is twice the rate of all Coloradans, and triple the rate of non-Hispanic whites. (Colorado Latino Age Wave project)
Another Colorado non-profit, the Life Quality Institute, has partnered with the University of Colorado, School of Medicine to train medical practitioners in palliative care – increasing knowledge about advanced illness and end of life issues. In a recent conversation, Life Quality Institute Board Chair, Julika Ambrose, talked about the need for the Latino community to play a bigger part in Colorado’s palliative care policies. From board representation and subject matter experts that can present of the topic, to linkages with Latino-centric outreach organizations, the Life Quality Institute is looking for more involvement by the Latino community on many levels.
On a national level, the National Institute of Health has declared that eliminating many of the health disparities between communities of color and the general population is a national priority. In order to combat the differences, Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research have also been established (RCMAR). The Resource Centers aim to eliminate disparities by creating more health studies, increase the number of researchers working in the field, and improve the cultural sensitivity in studies that are conducted. As an example, the NIH has partnered with the University of California, Davis to create the Latino Aging Research Resource Center (LARRC). As one of seven Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research, the LARRC is the only RCMAR to specifically focus on Latinos and cognitive health.
While it is clear that the amount of resources dedicated to the growing population of Latino seniors across the country is increasing, the involved entities need to be aware of one more sizable burden – the cultural differences in working with the aging population in the Latino community. As with many other family issues, sensitive conversations are often kept within the family. It will take not only increased resources but also an increased sensitivity and awareness of cultural norms within the Latino community to adequately address the growing needs of Colorado Latino seniors.