Life Transitions

In the Latino community, family is everything---our loved ones and relatives are at the center of our lives. We strive to help our families in anyway possible, and especially as they begin to age it is important to make sure our loved ones are fully prepared to transition into this next stage of life. In some circumstances---some that are foreseen and others unpredictable---people who are growing older often face changes that can impact their lives. These life transitions which look a lot different today than in times past, may range from taking care of a child, going through a divorce, or becoming a caregiver.

At AARP, we are delving deeper into assisting families in meeting these challenges to ensure people are aging with dignity and purpose. Earlier this spring, we conducted research among some of our members to see how they are coping with difficult life transitions. Most of our members reported having recently experienced or currently facing issues linked to difficult life transitions related to their personal health. The majority, or 56 percent, said they have dealt or are dealing with health maintenance and illness prevention.

Health care challenges, particularly among Latinos, fall directly in line with the ongoing, national debate for widespread health care reform. Many people are faced with finding affordable health care choices; and as we grow older, it can become harder to qualify for insurance or to secure adequate care. The fact is, Latino adults are up to three times more likely to be uninsured than Whites. More than a third of Latinos under age 65 lack health care coverage, compared to just over one of every ten whites.

Another recent study conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services cites that, “elderly cancer patients in minority communities are less likely than those in white communities to use hospice care.” They found that, “nearly half of individuals who lived in areas with fewer black and Hispanic residents used hospice compared with only about one-third (35 percent) of those who lived in areas with a higher percentage of black and Hispanic residents.”

The report said also that, “these differences in hospice use may contribute to disparities in suffering at the end of life and caregiver burden in minority communities.” However, the report does not reflect the positive impact of family caregiving among Latino families. While we all play a role in our personal health by living a healthy lifestyle, language barriers and discrimination also run rampant through out the health care system, leaving older people and those who care for them faced with enormous challenges.

AARP’s research on life transitions found also that another common experience was stress management, with 36 percent of our members surveyed dealing with this issue. Stress can come from an array of sources, but the current financial crisis has certainly put a strain on many families. AARP recognizes that stress is hitting our members from all angles, but many are looking for help. For issues such as stress management or coping with the death of a family member, AARP members surveyed tended to speak with or seek advice from friends.

Most members indicated that these steps gave them a better understanding of their situation and helped them feel better. They also said that the steps they took were typically effective in helping them deal with their issue. Latino families also seek assistance from close friends, as well as from family and respected community members.

Other personal issues experienced include raising grandchildren, finding a job, or taking care of family.

By talking to our members, and through our various programs and publications, AARP works hard to provide information to the aging population and their families. In fact, in early October, we launched a weekly Spanish-language radio show called Su Segunda Juventud. The show will feature advice and information from experts on a variety of topics relevant to the 50+ Hispanic community, such as finance and health. With Hispanics 50+ making up 8.3 percent of the total 50+ U.S. population and that number expected to double by the year 2040, the show will be reaching out to a unique and growing audience.

While life transitions can be challenging, having the support you need can assist in easing some of the hardships associated with growing older. AARP is here to help and to serve as a resource. For more information about aging or caring for a loved one, visit

Rocky Egusquiza is the Vice President, Latino/Hispanic Strategy at AARP.