Community Health Workers and Senior Health
The number of older adults in the United States is expected to reach 71 million by 20301. As this population grows, it is also becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. In 2010, 80% of adults aged 65 years or older in the United States were non-Hispanic white. By 2030, non-Hispanic whites will comprise 71.2% of the population and the Hispanic population will have grown to 12%.2 As this population grows and changes, it is imperative to address their specific health concerns and challenges. An overwhelming number of older adults prefer to age in the comfort of their own homes.3 Under the Life Stages initiative, we help support elders in this goal by utilizing Community Health Workers to address a number of common health concerns for older Hispanic adults. By addressing these concerns, older Hispanic adults can safely age in place.
Community Health Workers and Senior Mental Health
It is important to support older adults in their quest to remain living in the home for several reasons. Not only does this align with the preferences of most elders, but it also supports their mental health. Older adults living in nursing homes/residential care facilities have higher rates of depression (37%) compared to older adults overall (20%).4 This is especially important to note, as the burden of mental health concerns is already high among older adults. About 25% of adults aged 65 years or older have some type of mental health problem, such as a mood disorder not associated with normal aging.5 Approximately 12% of adults aged 65 or older report that they “rarely” or “never” receive the social and emotional support they needed.6 Improving social connections and social support has powerful implications for improving older adults’ mental health. Community Health Workers create meaningful relationships with their program participants, providing the social connections and support that have been linked to improved mental health. Furthermore, CHWs can provide education on mental health, refer participants to community resources, and help participants make connections to their peers through group education.