Living arrangements of the U.S. Mexican origin older adult population

Cantu, Phillip
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This dissertation examines late life living arrangements for the US older Mexican origin population. Among older adults, Mexican Americans are less likely than non-Hispanic whites to use formal long-term care services. Instead, Mexican Americans stay in their homes even after they become seriously impaired. While most frail older adults prefer to live at home or in the community rather than in long-term care facilities extended life expectancies require new empirical research on living arrangements. My dissertation builds on previous related research in several important ways. By focusing on Mexican in particular, I am able to examine a more homogenous group of Latinos than previous living arrangement research. The specific life expectancies and preferences for living arrangements of the Mexican American population make them a unique case for understanding the relationship between cognitive impairment and living arrangement. My research reveals substantial economic and health vulnerabilities among very old parents who live with children, but not as the head of household. In late old age, elderly parents in households in which they are not the head are highly dependent and experience high levels of ADL disability and cognitive impairment. Wealthier more established adult child caregivers make it possible for their elderly parents to co-reside. Thus, moving in with one’s children may serve as a functional alternative to a nursing home for the Mexican-origin oldest-old. I find that the extended lives of older Mexican American women relative to men are spent mostly living either alone or in extended households with other family members and not in non-family living care. Additionally, men spend nearly 40% of their years after age 65 living with their spouse only. Men spend only 13% of their years alone and another 13% living in extended households without a spouse. The differences in living arrangement by nativity status were generally along lines of household extension, foreign born men spent more time living in married extended households compared to US born men and foreign born women spent more time in single extended households compared to US born women. These findings are in line with previous research showing that foreign born Mexican Americans tend to have greater preference for household extensions in the case becoming incapacitated, however this research is the first to estimate to what extent those preferences result in greater duration living with others. Older Mexican adults in the US are twice as likely to live alone as people in Mexico. Nearly one in four people with dementia in the US and one in ten people with dementia in Mexico are living alone. Given rapid population aging trends, a lower mortality and fertility regime, Mexico is likely to mirror patterns of living arrangements in the US in the future. Although community care can increase the period of at least marginal autonomy, increasing life spans will mean a growing burden on public budgets