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West Phoenix senior center aims to reduce social isolation among older Latinos

Coverage of aging is supported in part by AARP Arizona

Loneliness and social isolation among older adults can lead to poor health outcomes and even death. For older Latinos, that isolation is exacerbated if there are cultural or language barriers. A mostly Spanish-speaking senior center in West Phoenix is tackling the problem.

It’s Zumba day at Casa de Primavera Senior Center. The music is loud, energetic and fun. About a dozen people are on the dance floor. 

“We do a little bit of everything: health education, teaching them how to make sure their medicines have been taken, physical activities… Zumba. That's one of their favorites.” That’s Luis Raygoza. He’s the Health Aging Program manager here. 

Much of what happens is about reducing social isolation — through dance, art, or a shared meal, as well education on topics like Alzheimer’s disease. 

“So for us, it's like, we need to make sure that we're connecting the families to Banner Alzheimer's, the Alzheimer's Association and getting them to connect it to the resources that are available for them,” he said.

Because stigma is a hurdle in the Latino community.

“We always think, Oh, it's just our older age, you know, ‘la edad’ Right?”

But it's not. 

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Erin Garcia is with Chicanos por la Causa, which owns Casa de Primavera. She says the program works.

“Our survey results have shown that our seniors have shown reduced signs of social isolation because they participated in our various programs.” 

Garcia is referring to a survey by CPLC Research and Evaluation which shows 91% of clients have someone they can call on if they need support. 

Senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.