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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Regional

Low-Income Latinas Lack Safety Net, Survey Finds

May 11, 2000

ORANGE COUNTY — Many of them have been caregivers all their lives, but low-income Latinas are unprepared to care for themselves as they age and face chronic illnesses, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The study by Santa Ana-based Latino Health Access surveyed 108 Latinas ages 45 to 64 in one of Orange County's poorest ZIP codes. The results paint a grim picture of some aging Latinas facing medical and financial problems that they are not equipped to handle. Latinas who live in low-income areas historically have worked in jobs that do not provide health care or offer savings plans, leaving them at risk for problems later in life.

"We have to be creative with solutions because there aren't going to be enough resources," said Mary Paul, who compiled the data.

Nationally, nearly one in five Latinas is over 45. In California, 38% of uninsured people are Latino, Paul said.

The study's participants live in ZIP code 92701. Among them, 60% were widowed, divorced or living alone and 90% were Mexican immigrants who had lived in the United States an average of 13 years.

Nine out of 10 women did not have health insurance and did not know how to qualify for Social Security benefits, which they need in order to be eligible for Medicare when they turn 65, Paul said. Two out of three of the women suffer from diabetes, cardiovascular disease or arthritis.

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