This is the same as it is for many Europeans but you don't hear about them. These people that the article talks about keep proving their ignorance over and over again and then demand us to cater to them. Who in their right mind would do something like that to their elderly parents? I guess they want the American tax payers to foot that one as well. ... news-front

Elderly immigrant Hispanics tasked with learning English, building life outside family

By Tal Abbady
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted March 10 2007

Three years ago, Luisa Flamerich owned a home, drove a car and planned her busy life around grandchildren and friends in her hometown of Caracas, Venezuela.

Today, she embroiders flowers and takes classes at a Pembroke Pines senior day care center whose Hispanic clientele has doubled in the past 10 years. Her reluctant move from Venezuela, arranged by her children, underscores an elder boom among Hispanics in South Florida fueled by aging immigrants and adult children plucking frail parents from their home countries.

High fertility rates and youthful waves of immigrants have kept the country's overall Hispanic population young. But the growing number of Hispanics 65 and older in South Florida has county agencies scrambling for space and funding and families at a loss to find the right care for their loved ones.

At the same time, many elderly Hispanics who are late-life immigrants find themselves growing old in rootless suburbs, unable to speak English and bewildered by a culture where working children often can't care for aging parents at home.

"In Venezuela, there's nowhere to put your old. You're stuck with them until they die," said Flamerich, 77, who lives with her daughter. She stitched together a delicate floral pattern in an arts-and-crafts class at Southwest Focal Point in Pembroke Pines.

Learning English and building a life outside of their families are tall orders for elderly immigrant Hispanics accustomed to the respected perch enjoyed by grandparents in the traditional Latin American family.

But social workers say that breaking out of old cultural norms can be freeing.

"What we promote is for people to come out and learn new skills. Maybe your mother is here from Guatemala or Venezuela and she's in her 80s. Well, her role here is not necessarily to sit home and watch the kids, like it is in Latin America. She needs to come out and socialize with other people," said Sandra Suarez, an administrator at Southwest Focal Point.

Roughly 40 percent of the 800 people who attend the senior day care center weekly are Hispanic, a number that was half that 10 years ago. The numbers reflect a dramatic spike in South Florida's Hispanic 65-plus population, which from 1990 to 2000 grew by 134 percent in Broward County and 100 percent in Palm Beach County, Census data shows. Immigration and the northward migration of Hispanics from Miami-Dade County are driving the growth, analysts say.

To keep up, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami is planning an intergenerational center west of Hollywood that would serve 50 Hispanic seniors. The senior program would be an extension of Centro Oeste Hispano, a Spanish-language adult day care center in Davie that serves 40 seniors, opened in 2002 and has a long waiting list.

In Palm Beach County, Alzheimer's Community Care in West Palm Beach opened a Greenacres Spanish-language day care center for Hispanics with Alzheimer's in 2003. Program manager Laura Panizza is struggling to raise money to expand programming at the center, the only one of its kind in the county.

While adult children are anxious for more services like those offered at Centro Oeste and Alzheimer's Community Care, their parents arrive with serious doubts.

"Some of them come in here fighting tooth-and-nail. They think it's the first step to a nursing home, and in Hispanic culture, you don't send your parents away," said William Torres, Centro Oeste's program coordinator.

During a recent group discussion about current events -- a class called Noticias Del Dia that kicks off the mornings at Centro Oeste -- Ligia Muņoz, 84, quietly sunk into a couch at the back of the room. She lives in Sunrise with her daughter, who brought her to the United States from Paisa, Colombia, seven months ago. Torres said she fought her family's decision to bring her to the center several months ago but warmed to it after she successfully proposed to lead a twice-weekly sewing group for some of the women.

"I love my country, but my daughter was afraid for me. I came here, and my life changed. I'm resigned to it," Muņoz said.

Hispanic adults bound by their parents' traditions also struggle with the decision to find outside care.

"When you move to this country you adapt to the reality that everybody works. I'm not going to quit my job to dedicate myself to my mother. My husband and I need both our incomes to survive," said Olinda Valcarcel, 50, a Peruvian-born accountant who lives in The Acreage. "I watched my mother take care of my grandmother until she died. But I can't do that."

Five years ago, she insisted that her mother, Olinda Mora de Miranda, 75, move permanently from Callao, Peru, to Palm Beach County. A former art teacher, Mora de Miranda splits her time between Valcarcel's home and that of a younger daughter in Lantana. A year ago, the children discovered the storefront Greenacres center, and the burden of their mother's constant care eased.

Bundled in a green coat, Mora de Miranda, who is in the early stage of Alzheimer's, spoke lucidly about her life. She praised the center's affectionate staff and said she's adapted to growing old here, but memories of Callao, where she once hoped to grow old among family, consume her.

"This country's idiosyncrasy is how much people work. It splits families up," she said. She glanced at the other seniors as they rose from their seats and danced a bachata when a volunteer turned up the volume on a CD player.

"If just one of my children would return to Peru, I'd go back," she said.