AARP Eye Center
By Kelly Ganski
Chicago has one of the largest Latino populations in the country, about 800,000 people, according to the Census Bureau.
But in recent years, the number of Latinos living elsewhere in Illinois has grown to an estimated 1.3 million—about 10 percent of the state’s population—and many lack access to the types of bilingual services and resources found in Cook County.
That’s why AARP Illinois is increasing its focus on other parts of the state this year.
“I think it’s very important for us to also begin to look beyond the city of Chicago to other areas of the state and rural areas,” said Álvaro Obregón, associate state director of advocacy and outreach for AARP Illinois. He joined the organization in 2016 to work with the Latino community.
It’s the first time AARP has dedicated resources to Latino issues outside of the Chicago area, and it is looking for volunteers in different parts of the state.
To that end, AARP Illinois is holding a volunteer-recruitment event on Thursday, April 18, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., at the VFW Post at 1234 Vandalia St., in Collinsville. You can register for the event at aarp.cvent.com/metroeast1 or call 877-926-8300.
On a statewide level, AARP is doing more in Spanish. All materials are being translated, and some informational videos will be shot in the language.
Those videos will address needs that are specific to the Latino community, said Dina Anderson, associate state director of communications for AARP Illinois.
Saving and Caregiving
Tackling another issue, AARP is getting the word out—in both languages—about Illinois Secure Choice, a new state-sponsored savings program available this year to workers who do not have access to a retirement plan through their employer.
“We’re ensuring that large issues as well as the local issues are addressed to everyone, including the Latino community, and doing that in whatever language they are comfortable with,” Anderson said.
Until more volunteers are recruited, AARP will “play an air game,” and will reach people through social media and videos, Obregón explained.
One concern that affects many state residents is caregiving, which can be an emotional and financial hardship. There are many resources for caregivers in Chicago, but not downstate.
AARP Illinois wants all residents to know what kind of assistance is available to them.
“For example, people may wonder how they can find a Spanish-speaking caregiver in, say, Peoria or Moline,” said Obregón, who looks after his mother.
“AARP can provide educational tools and resources, and people can reach out to the state office for help,” he added.
Information is available in English and Spanish at aarp.org/caregiving/basics/info-2018/support-line.html or by calling 877-333-5885 (English) or 888-971-2013 (Spanish).
Obregón tested the Spanish support line recently and found it helpful.
“I think we are well positioned to be able to provide resources both at the national level as well as the state level,” Obregón said. “It’s very important for AARP to reach out to everybody, and especially to those communities that are growing in population.”
Kelly Ganski is a writer living in Bartlett, IL.