Local Latino community leaders honored for services to the aging
The Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA), a non-profit agency on aging, held a networking event, “Strengthening Aging Connections to the Latino Community,” to promote the sharing of information about programs and resources for Latino seniors, on March 18.
Of the 273,000 Philadelphia elders (60 years old and up), 16,000 are Latino, according to the PCA. Spanish is the primary language for more than 13,000 of them, causing issues when seeking social service programs, like aging services.
“We are a city of a growing senior population and a growing diversity within the senior population. I look at the stats of the people who walk into the Mayor’s Commission of Aging seeking information and those numbers have really shifted significantly,” Lydia Hernandez Velez, Philadelphia deputy managing director for aging, said. “Some of the issues, I now have to literally step in. For the folks who are dealing with real crisis issues, the ability to communicate their concerns in the language they’re most comfortable with is so important in order to get to a solution that works.”
The PCA present three community service awards during the networking event. The awards honored Latino business and community leaders for their service to the aging Latino community. The award recipients were Isabel Armstrong, parenting teacher at Southwest Nu-Stop Inc., Reverend Bonnie Camarda, director of partnerships at Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia and Felicita Feliciano, coordinator at the Latino Partnership Initiative.
“There are many times that people have been working for 20 to 30 years in our community and you just take them for granted. So our committee thought about that and we picked those three people because they have in fact been struggling and winning because each one of them has had victories on services, on access, and on information. We wanted to take them and say ‘Yes, you have done a good job. Yes, we want to recognize your accomplishments,” Velez said.
Wilmarie Gonzalez, state Long-Term Care ombudsman and Bureau of Advocacy director at Pa. Dept. of Aging, spoke about Governor Wolf’s and the state’s commitment to helping seniors.
“One of the things that Governor Wolf has made a commitment to providing is home modification for seniors and that’s a really big deal. I relate to that. My other who is 74 years old hates stairs, can’t walk anymore and has fallen twice. But you still can’t tell her she can’t dance salsa , bachata or merengue because she’ll still do it, but she can’t walk up the stairs,” Gonzalez said. “To try to find home modification that she can afford is very difficult because financially many of our elderly don’t have the finances to do it.”
“Pennsylvania is on the forefront in insuring that we have workers that can provide services and support in the community because the nursing home industry can not and will not be able to support the aging population,” Gonzalez said.