Abstract: Latino Older Adults and Their Perceptions of Positive Aging: Results from the Positive Aging Latino Study (PALS) (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Latino Older Adults and Their Perceptions of Positive Aging: Results from the Positive Aging Latino Study (PALS)

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 9, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
John Ridings, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, The Salvation Army, IL
Lissette Piedra, PhD, LCSW, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL
Melissa Howe, PhD, Senior Scientist, NORC, IL
Yarida Montoya, MPH, Research Associate, NORC at the University of Chicago, IL
Kendon Conrad, PhD, Professor Emeritis, University of Illinois at Chicago, IL
Background: Latino older adults are expected to quintuple by 2050.  Scholars estimate an increase from 7% (3.1 million) of the nation’s over sixty-five population to 18% (15.4 million; Ortman, Velkoff, & Hogan, 2014). Like many aging populations in the United States, Latino older adults aged 65 and older experience serious socioeconomic disadvantages. Many are ill-prepared for retirement and encounter serious challenges to obtain appropriate housing and access to services.  By all accounts, there is a need to help this growing population age successfully (National Hispanic Council on Aging [NHCOA], 2016). However, despite the odds, some older Latino adults seem to be thriving.  In this study, we examine how older Latino adults understand “positive aging.”

Methods:  We used a mixed-methodology called concept-mapping to learn what service-connected Latino older adults (N = 101) living in Chicago and its neighboring suburbs consider important for aging well, positively, and successfully.  With the help of the Positive Aging of Latinos Study (PALS) steering committee (N = 20), we collected data from nine Latino focus groups (six Spanish speaking, three English speaking; N = 101) to generate an unabridged list of 171 statements that described what positive and successful aging meant to participants. The PALS steering committee, which consisted of community leaders and scholars in the field of Latino aging, reviewed the statements, assisted with the translation and back translation of items in Spanish, eliminated vague and duplicate statements, and approved a final list of 85 statements. Next, Latino older adults thematically sorted (n = 35) and rated (n = 93) the 85 statements (using a 1-5 scale; higher values indicate greater importance). These data were used to produce a final concept map.  

 Results: The final map consisted of 11 clusters nested within 4 overarching regions of meaning. Region 1 [Self-Sufficiency] contains items clustered as “Stability” and “Independence.” In this region, “Stability” reflected items related to finance, relationships and spirituality.  Region 2 [Healthy Behaviors] grouped related items as either “Staying Healthy” or “Avoiding Trouble.” Region 3 [Perspectives on Life] encompasses item clusters that indicate “aging friendly” mindsets: “Tómelo Suave (Take it Easy),” “Outlook on Life/Self-Care,” “Emotional Well-being,” and “Maturing.” Region 4 [Convivir (To coexist)] features indictors of interrelatedness such as “Social & Community Engagement,” “Coping & Adjustment,” and “Family Relationships.”  An analysis by national background and nativity showed little variation. However, Spanish language use coincided with items that are categorically “inward focused” (i.e. letting go of anger and jealousy, embracing spirituality, accepting family); English language use coincided with items that were “outward focused” (i.e. engaging in leisure activities, setting goals, starting over).   

 Conclusion and Implications: Latino older adults seem to operate from a multidimensional sense of stability that promotes positive aging. For them, positive aging includes not just cognitive and physical health but also financial, social, and spiritual health. Thus, it may be useful to integrate seemingly disparate programmatic components (i.e., financial education, meditation/spiritual activities, and family meetings) to better resonate with their multifaceted understanding of aging well.