Latinos in Evanston North Shore Launches Community Seniors Group
When she arrived in the United States, Fabiola Alfonso’s mother Celia brought with her something Alfonso often took for granted: her wisdom.
Members of the elderly community have collective wisdom informed by years of experience, Alfonso said. Instead of letting him get lost, she said their voices should be heard.
So when Mercedes Fernandez, president of Latinos in Evanston North Shore, brought up the idea of creating a program for older members of the community to connect with other Spanish speakers, Alfonso was elated.
“They give, give, give,” said Alfonso, vice president of the organization. “We haven’t been able to give back … this club is going to give back some of what they gave us.”
The organization has decided to name the new program “Los Años Dorados” or “The Golden Years”. The group offers social programming as well as language access to resources such as legal services, financial planning and information on COVID-19. It debuted on September 12 – Grandparents Day.
Celia, who is from Mexico, was the first member of the program. She said through an interpreter that it was difficult to adjust to life in another country, especially because life is organized and structured differently in the United States.
Outside of her church, Celia said she couldn’t find much community in Evanston. She is thrilled to connect with others through Los Años Dorados.
“I’m really excited because I’m going to meet people my age,” she said. “Share the experiences we have learned from our family, from our culture. ”
Although the program has yet to host any events, Fernandez said he plans to create spaces where members can dance, watch Spanish films and interact with each other and their culture.
Celia loves to dance and is thrilled to do it again in Los Años Dorados.
“I love music from the 60s, 70s and tango,” Celia said. “I missed it a lot.”
For older members of the community like Celia, Alfonso said the past year has been particularly isolating as they haven’t been able to easily leave home and connect with others. That feeling is magnified in the suburbs where there isn’t a large Spanish-speaking community, Fernandez said.
The elderly community carries a broad culture, traditions, values and principles from lived experience, said Fernandez. Instead of letting community members go unnoticed, she said residents should listen.
“In Evanston… Latinos are still invisible. Our achievements, our problems, our needs are not counted, ”said Fernandez. “The only way to make our voice heard is to organize ourselves… and cover needs that are not covered by the government or the schools. “
Alfonso said his organization also educates attendees about resources such as legal services and financial planning that language barriers can otherwise make inaccessible.
These obstacles have prevented some non-English speaking community members from learning vital information about COVID-19, Alfonso said. Unable to access essential information about potential precautions and how the virus is spreading, she said some elderly members of the community lost their lives.
“There was a lot of misinformation about COVID in the health services, and some of our leaders have passed away without even saying goodbye,” Alfonso said. “(This program) honors those who have already left.”
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