Abstract: Positive Aging Among Latinos: Researcher and Practitioner Perspectives (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Positive Aging Among Latinos: Researcher and Practitioner Perspectives

Friday, January 18, 2019: 9:00 AM
Union Square 15 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Lissette Piedra, PhD, LCSW, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Melissa Howe, PhD, Senior Scientist, NORC, IL
John Ridings, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, The Salvation Army, IL
Jennifer Smith, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging, IL
Catherine O'Brien, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging
Alexis Howard, MA, Research Asssistant, NORC
Kendon Conrad, PhD, Professor Emeritis, University of Illinois at Chicago, IL
Objective: Research on how Latino older adults conceptualize positive aging provides a window through which we can observe what this growing minority of older adults hopes to experience during their last decades of life, with important implications for senior programming. However, as with many public health issues, researcher and practitioner perspectives on what “positive aging” means for older Latino adults can differ for a variety of reasons. This difference might be further accentuated by whether the researcher or practitioner has specific expertise and experience with Latino older adults. Yet, few studies explore how such stakeholders conceptualize positive aging and the ways those conceptualizations might converge or diverge.

 Methods: We adapted the stepwise strategy characteristic of concept-mapping methods. 103 statements about “positive aging” and related concepts were derived from published research. Members from a stakeholder steering committee (SC) comprised of Latino and non-Latino scholars and community leaders and workers reviewed, edited, and reduced the list to 90 unique, “expert” statements. A purposeful sample of (N = 38) stakeholders used the Concept Systems Global Max software to sort these statements into categories and to rate their relative importance. The importance of the dimensions were rated by stakeholders in two comparisons: (a) Latinos vs. non-Latinos and (b) scholars vs. community leaders/workers. After the statements were intuitively sorted, the responses were subjected to statistical transformations involving principal components analysis, multidimensional scaling, and hierarchical cluster analysis to arrive at a penultimate map. This map was interpreted by the SC, who reviewed and labeled the final clusters.  

 Results: The final concept map displays ten dimensions within four overarching domains for positive aging: 1) Self-sufficient Living (Independence, Financial Security); 2) Maintaining Health (Physical Health, Cognitive Health); 3) Psychological Resources (Resilience, Positive Outlook); and 4) Social & Spiritual Life (Giving of Oneself, Reciprocity, Meaningful Relationships, Spirituality). With few exceptions, Latino and non-Latino stakeholders produced similar importance ratings for each dimension, with financial security rated as the most highly prioritized factor. The importance of Spirituality emerged as the most salient point of divergence between the scholar and community leaders and workers.  

 Implications: Findings provide current insight into the variety of “expert” assumptions held by researchers and practitioners about what comprises positive aging for Latino older adults.  The divergence indicated by Spirituality suggests that community leaders and workers might have access to experience-near knowledge embedded in their work (i.e. observing clients attending services and/or informal participation through Spanish Radio programs) that might not necessarily be present for scholars. Such differences in conceptualizations should be considered when designing culturally sensitive programming to empower older Latinos to age well and reap the benefits of a meaningful social life.