Wise Elders: Creating Family and Improving Health in the Latino Community

Sol Moran is gregarious and full of life. But, if you had known her a few years ago, you wouldn’t recognize her. When Sol first came to Centro Tyrone Guzman, a Latino community center just south of downtown Minneapolis, she was very ill. She had diabetes, which was not well managed, and her liver was failing. She lived by herself and was lonely and depressed. Her doctors had given up on her. They said they had done all they could do and told her to go home.

That’s when Sandra Reyes, coordinator of Centro’s Wise Elders program did a home visit with Sol and invited her to Centro. Sol found a welcoming and healing spirit there. Centro plays a significant role in the lives of many Spanish-speaking persons in the Twin Cities and across Minnesota.

Juniper Programs Create a Support System

Sol participated in the Juniper program, Tomando Control de su Salud (the Spanish version of Living Well with Chronic Conditions). The evidence-based program helps people manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and anxiety. In the six-week class people learn how to manage pain and fatigue, improve nutrition and exercise and talk to doctors and families about treatment choices.

“I learned so much in the class—about the importance of eating smaller portions, how to cook differently, to drink more liquids and to not get discouraged,” said Sol. Much of the class time is spent talking to each other. “We share our fears, our successes, and we support each other.”

Sol loves Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance at Centro, a Juniper program that helps people prevent falls. “Tai Ji Quan gives me so much energy! It’s taught me to pay attention to where I put my feet, how to ground myself and how to stop myself if I start to fall,” she said. Sol practices the movements she learned in the class every day at home.

Opening New Doors for Engagement

Sol has become a leader within the Wise Elder group, working to motivate and engage others. In the apartment building where she lives, she started a music group so she and her neighbors can enjoy music and socialize with each other. When Teatro del Pueblo, a Latino theater group came to Centro, Sol was cast as the main character. They have just hired her for a new project.

“Sol is amazing,” Sandra said. “She has made such a transformation in her physical, mental and social health. Now she has goals in her life, she has dreams. When she came here she could hardly walk. Now she dances her way into the classroom. She still uses a cane some days but every day she works at strengthening herself, so she won’t need the cane. I know she’ll get there. Her story is so powerful. It has touched so many people’s lives.”

Culturally Sensitive Environment

“It makes a big difference to be surrounded by people who share your culture and speak your language,” Sandra said. “Having the classes led by people from the community is so much more powerful than having a translator.”

“Most of Centro’s elders have chronic conditions. Isolation is also a big problem,” said Yolima Chambers, administrator for the Health & Wellness Department at Centro.

“Working with Juniper is a natural fit for us. We want to be proactive in helping people address concerns and the Juniper programs do that. They are preventative, use a holistic approach and are based on research.”

Sol can’t say enough good things about Centro. “I found family here, it’s my community,” she said. “Centro saved my life.”

2018-01-17T20:10:40+00:00