According to a recent study by Fordham University’s Ravazzin Center for Social Work Research in Aging, in order to protect elderly Hispanics from economic hardships, poor health and inadequate housing, greater public awareness and understanding of their needs is necessary so that more effective public policies may be implemented. The study, “Older Hispanics In New York City: An Assessment of Their Circumstances and Their Need,” completed by Fordham Researcher Nadia Cohen, Ph.D., notes that while the number of Hispanic people age 65 and older is growing at an unprecedented rate, targeted research and service efforts are not keeping the same pace. The purpose of the study is to survey the socio-economic circumstances and perceived needs of older Hispanics so that these conditions can become part of public policy debate.
The study found that Hispanic elderly in New York City are twice as likely to live alone than those living elsewhere in the country (34.3 percent versus 15.3 percent) and have lower income levels and higher poverty rates than any other ethnic group. The majority of Hispanic elderly in New York live on Social Security benefits averaging $610 a month, but fall as low as $320 in some cases, the study notes. “Through this report, we hope to open dialogue between service providers, policy makers, and the academic community to effectively work together to serve New York City’s older Hispanic population,” said Irene Gutheil, D.S.W., director of the Ravazzin Center. “This is particularly important since the older minority population is expected to increase significantly in the coming years.” The study surveys living arrangements for elderly Hispanics, the nationwide growth of older Hispanics, familial relationships and the problems of housing, health and financial need.
The study found that some of these needs include better health care benefits, more affordable housing and more bilingual information on available services – such as telephone bill rebates and heating discounts for the elderly. The study suggests that efforts on the grassroots level will continue to be important. Additionally, an ethnic-specific inventory of the demographics of the Hispanic population residing in New York City should be developed so the groups can be studied and their needs assessed. On the federal and state levels, the study encourages the formation of fellowship programs to increase the pool of Hispanic doctors in the country and the adoption of measures to provide job insurance to uninsured workers.
“Older Hispanics face a ‘double jeopardy’ due to their age and ethnicity; Hispanic women a ‘triple’ because of their gender,” says the study. “The projected changes in the age structure of this ethnic group … are expected to have distinct implications for the survival of elderly Hispanics outside of their family structure, and for certain economic and cultural issues surrounding long-term care.”