“I Don’t Have Much Money, But I Have a Lot of Friends”: How Poor Older Latinxs Find Social Support in Peer Friendship Networks

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“I Don’t Have Much Money, But I Have a Lot of Friends”: How Poor Older Latinxs Find Social Support in Peer Friendship Networks

Abstract: Even though older Latinxs face some of the most economical precarity of any demographic group in the
nation, little research has focused on this group and how they survive despite having limited economic means
and access to government support. Drawing on two years of ethnographic research in an urban, Latinx
community on the East Coast and seventy- two in-depth interviews, this study addresses this knowledge gap
by focusing on the role of peer friendship networks in the lives of low- income, foreign-born Latinx older
adults. I show that peer friendships have the unique ability to prioritize and affirm their identities as Latinxs
and elders and provide returns in the form of medical, economic, and emotional support. For instance, peers
often facilitate transportation to medical appointments, provide critical information about medicines and
health insurance, and try to emotionally uplift one another, especially when family support is lacking.
Understanding the role these networks play in the lives of our most vulnerable has implications for our
understanding of aging, poverty, and policy.

Bio: Melanie Z. Plasencia is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Comparative Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and the incoming César Chávez Fellow at Dartmouth College for 2021-2022. Her research is committed to improving older immigrants' social, economic, and health conditions by learning about the role social support and place have in shaping their health and well-being. Drawing on more than two years of ethnographic fieldwork in a community of older Latinos on the East Coast and 72 open-ended interviews, her dissertation, “Con Suenos Que Ya Son Viejos: How Aging Latinx Immigrants Confront Inequality in Later Life,” examines how older Latino immigrants negotiate the challenges of aging in the context of extreme poverty, deteriorating health, and diminishing government support. Her research shows that older Latino immigrants face enormous financial, familial, medical, and health challenges when they decide to grow old in the United States. As a result, older Latinos must learn new ways of managing healthcare, adapting to fixed incomes, and finding spheres of personal and even moral worth in their retirement years. This project has been supported by a multi-year University of California (UC) fellowship, the New York Metro Fellowship, the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues, UC Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender, and the Ford Foundation.

Marci Sanders
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When and Where
September 23, 2021
1:00 pm - 1:45 pm
Room/Location: Zoom

Open to the Public

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