Bicultural struggles: Life in Latinx shoes

Story and photo by ZANE LAW

The Latinx community has taken on the challenge of raising bicultural children, allowing their kids to venture from familial norms. While many Latinx immigrants came to the United States as solely Spanish speakers and Latin-embodied individuals, their kids and younger generations are transitioning to a more Americanized way of life. From bilingual speech to the foods they eat to the clothes they wear, everything can change before a parent’s eyes. Many parents struggle with this process. 

Shane Macfarlan, a well-published anthropologist and assistant professor at the University of Utah, said culture is an “integrated system of symbolically encoded conceptual phenomena that is socially and historically transmitted within and between populations.” 

To put this mouthful in far simpler terms, Macfarlan said culture is an intertwined web of knowledge that gives meaning to acts and things. This explanation says that culture is a set of thoughts and beliefs that allow Americans to know an extended hand as an attempted handshake, burgers and hotdogs as go-to barbecue/party foods, and the word football as a game played with pads and a helmet instead of a soccer ball and cleats. These words, gestures, and foods did not have an assigned meaning or context until a group of folks came together and decided it to be this way. 

This definition and concept are described by Macfarlan as being both a blessing and a curse for immigrants. While culture allows people to bond with each other, coordinate activities, and hang onto loved traditions, the integration of a foreign culture can also be a challenge. He said that because of the “integrated system” aspect of his culture definition, “changing one aspect of someone’s culture can inadvertently change other aspects as well.” 

For example, a bilingual home would allow someone to communicate openly with friends and family of different cultures, while also giving folks a leg up in terms of job qualifications. Bilingual individuals are always needed in the job force and are in high demand, so being raised in that environment is helpful.

A parent of a bilingual child would most likely be happy to see their kid grow up with more opportunities, but because a language was added to the child’s life, Macfarlan’s definition says that other aspects of their family’s culture are able to change as well. The parent may struggle to keep their kid speaking Spanish, enjoying the same foods, or practicing the same traditions. 

Andrea Ibanez, however, said in a video chat that she had a different experience. An Argentinian-born woman who has now lived in California for about 40 years, said that when she moved to the U.S. as a child, her mom wanted them to learn English in order to be successful. Mama Ibanez would speak to Andrea in English whenever she got the chance, wanting to pick up on school-learned knowledge. There were fewer Latinx individuals in the U.S. and Spanish speakers were not as sought after, so the Ibanez family was trying hard to focus on acculturation rather than enculturation. English was key and Spanish fell to second best. 

andrea and kids

Andrea and her kids enjoy a nice, Argentinian meal.

This cultural identity and monolingual predicament strained Ibanez’s relationship with her own daughter. She continued with her English-only mindset until she realized the benefits of being bilingual. Ibanez said she began giving Spanish lessons to her daughter when she turned 16, but by then it was too late. Her daughter always thought that speaking Spanish was difficult and embarrassing. They would reply to each other in different languages and argue for hours about the benefits and the embarrassments of each side.

With so much pressure to fit into “the crowd” at younger ages, there is a huge decision to be made. Latinx individuals are able to conform to American society and leave large portions of their culture behind, refuse to assimilate and fall back on ethnic ties, or accept both cultures the same and effectively communicate with both communities.

According to a 2014 study, “ethnic minority individuals may engage in frame switching (switching between their dual cultural identities in response to cultural cues as needed).” While this style is ideal, being able to communicate with different people and understand the values, beliefs, and norms of each, it is much easier said than done. 

Rebecca Chavez-Houck, a former Utah House of Representatives legislator and mother of two, speaks of the trials of being a mother to bicultural children. Her kids practiced the first assimilation option, joining their friends and forgetting their Hispanic roots.

She explained that while teens already tend to pull away from their parents, as a mechanism of growth and independence-gaining, the pushback is “augmented and amplified when dealing with a Latino kid.” She said that kids simply want to fit in with friends and are embarrassed by roots that are not common within peer groups. They do not fully know who they are or what values are important to them yet.

While Chavez-Houck did struggle with her kids’ personal growth, she said the transition is easier for the parents and children when the community is there to support and foster a wholesome experience. According to a 2018 Salt Lake Tribune story, there are 440,000 Latinx community members now residing in Utah.

Being able to stay in touch with roots and complete a smooth transition to biculturalism, based on Chavez-Houck’s statement, is becoming easier as Latinx populations increase statewide.

 

Hispanic belief system that the family is the heart and focus of life

Story and photo by EMMA JOHNSON

The family is the heart of the Hispanic culture. Children taking care of their parents as their parents took care of them in their childhood is a “circle of life” concept the Latinix communities value. Birth and death are interesting life experiences. Latinx people are viewed as family-centered with divine importance placed on caring for the young and elderly. Learning from family members’ wisdom that will benefit future generations is an honorable life adventure Hispanic families respect.

A 2014 poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that Hispanics have a higher likelihood of caring for their elderly relatives and having it be a positive experience. The poll concluded that Hispanic families have reported a greater percentage of their caregiving being less financially stressful.

Alex Guzman, president and CEO of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, feels the opportunity to take care of his elders enhances his family centered beliefs. “In the Hispanic culture, they will take care of their parents because their parents took care of them.” For him and his family, the statement is as simple as it sounds. Guzman says assisted-living homes are a rarity in his home county of Guatemala. The family is the center. Whatever sacrifices need to be made to ensure fulfillment of the circle of life will be made.

IMG_1799_1551905733197

The Livas family represents the circle of life. Standing from left: Norma, Manny, and Ed. Sam is seated

Latinx communities are loyal to their heritage.  They are proud of who they are and willing to share their rich culture with others. Sam Livas is a Mexican-American who prides himself on his family-oriented lifestyle. Livas’ mother grew up in Cananera Sonora, Mexico, and his father in Tucson, Arizona. His mother migrated to the United States to marry his father. Livas was born in California but said he would not trade his Hispanic upbringing up for the world.

Growing up, Livas said he watched as his mother cared for her elderly parents. “Seeing my mother and her siblings take care of their mother is where I feel or saw the need to take care of my own parents.” The firsthand experience helped him to realize the cultural importance and value of caring for those he loved.

According to a study conducted by the University Of Austin, Texas, despite high levels of need, Hispanics shun nursing homes and remain where they are even with compromised health conditions. It isn’t uncommon for children caretakers to fail meeting the needs of their elderly relatives. Most family members aren’t medical professionals. The looming pressure of where family members with health complications will live daunts and alters cultural customs.

Livas said in an email interview that his Mexican-American values have given him a clearer understanding of why many Americans put their parents into nursing centers. “I don’t fault those that CAN provide better care for their loved ones.” He said he feels assisted and rehabilitation homes should not be a substitute for family, but used as a resource that benefits all. “Don’t forget to call and visit,” Livas added, there is no better emotional love than a family can provide.

Latinx communities rely on family units as human bodies rely on their heart. Family belonging and involvement is the foundation of their lives. Guzman, with the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said, “If you have to work three jobs with the intention to provide for your children, you do.”

 

Aging in Salt Lake City

Story and slideshow by KEITH LAMAR McDONALD

Visit with the Long/Leon family.

 

Vince Long talks about his grandmother between puffs of a Camel cigarette on his front porch.

“She’s more like my mom than my mom is,” Long said. “My mom always worked so I was with grandma all the time. … I remember getting busted by her as a kid when I climbed on the fridge to get a toy that got taken from me.”

Long has lived with his maternal grandmother, Eva Leon, intermittently for about 10 years.

Leon, a South High School graduate who turned 75 in May 2014, still lives in the same neighborhood in which she grew up. In fact, her current home is directly across the street from the two-bedroom triplex she and her 10 brothers and sisters grew up in with their parents.

“I’ve worked all my life,” said Leon in a phone interview. “My first job was at Engh Floral on Main Street. We used to transplant flowers.”

Now Leon works at Smith’s Marketplace in the deli section. This August will mark her 19th year with the company.

She said the job at the downtown location is fun, but times have changed since she was growing up in Salt Lake City.

“Families are smaller now,” Leon said.

As one TRAX line after another zips north and south past the 900 South 200 West train stop in front of their home, Long sinks into a lawn chair and discusses his family history and his relationship with his roommate — who happens to be four decades his senior.

He said Leon traveled with her sister Barbara to Florida when she was 18. Her four sisters followed and all of them but one ended up marrying a Floridian. Leon moved back to Utah in 1978 when her husband died. Two of her children stayed in Florida and two came with her to Utah.

Long said he and his grandmother get along well, but mostly because they have been living together for a long time and are used to each other’s ways.

They enjoy watching TV, eating together and playing gin rummy. As a member of the LDS Church Leon has worked with the Relief Society as well. It’s hard to decipher who needs whom more.

“I think about moving a lot but when I‘m out of town I worry about her being home alone,” Long said.

For some aging Utah residents, turning 65 doesn’t mean retirement or a rest home; it means the start of a new career or the beginning of another chapter in life. The term retired doesn’t apply to those who never stop working, never stop being active members of their families, churches and communities.

The US Census Bureau estimates that approximately 57, 866 people aged 65 or older live in Utah. This is about 9 percent of the population of the state.

Sometimes families are thrust together at a moment’s notice and drastic changes and compromises have to be made.

In 2012, Will and Anna Hatton moved into the Salt Lake City home of Anna’s great-aunt Carla Fisher, when she went on an LDS mission to Fort Wayne, Ind., for 20 months. That arrangement helped the couple focus on completing college and starting their new family, rather than having to find real estate agents and secure a home loan.

Fisher had returned from her mission by the time Anna graduated from the University of Utah in fall 2013 with a degree in communication. Will graduated in spring 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. The transition from being single, to being a couple, to being the parents of a boisterous 18 month-old daughter who are living with their great-aunt was something that took getting used to.

Anna remembers her great-aunt teaching elementary school. Fisher taught first through fifth- grade classes at Indian Hills Elementary and wrote some of the LDS Church curriculum for primary children.

She said Fisher, 75, has always had a lot of energy.

“She loves helping people,” Anna said. “She helps women that are younger than her with less health problems,” Anna said.

Anna credits her great-aunt’s longevity to eating well, staying active and her LDS values.

“She’s never drank or smoked and she’s always eaten healthy. She eats like a bird,” Anna said.

Fisher may require help accomplishing tasks like lifting heavy objects and yard work, but she still exerts her independence.

“She is very stubborn. She still climbs ladders,” Anna said.

Will said he doesn’t necessarily think that the difficulties they face are generational.

“I don’t think it’s living with an aging person; it’s living with a roommate,” he said.

“The least amount of [drama] the better. She comes from a different mindset, a lifestyle that she’s made for over 50 years,” Will said. “She’s never been married. She has different cleaning habits [than we do]…. It’s a balancing act.”

The Hatton family plans to move to Atlanta in summer 2014 to find jobs. While they are looking forward to making a new life for themselves, they will always appreciate the things Fisher has done for them and others.

“It’s been a great privilege to live in this house,” Will said. “It’s given me a real interesting perspective of being a homeowner.”

As far as living with an aging person, he said that the benefits are a product of wisdom.

“Everyone has a perspective,” he said. “Aging people may have a fuller perspective on the world [than younger people]. I don’t think it’s better or worse but it is more experienced.”

My ride-along with Meals on Wheels

Story and slideshow by IAN SMITH

Experience the ride-along as we delivered meals to about 70 homes.

 

From the moment I hopped into the truck I knew I was in for more than I could have ever expected. I saw the route list. I saw the 70-plus houses that I was going to have to visit. I was excited about the journey I was about to embark on.

The emotions that I would feel throughout the day were making me shake. It wasn’t the feeling of fear, however, more of just a heightened sense of things.

The Salt Lake County Meals on Wheels program was the right choice for me to bring out my emotions on paper. The program itself has an eligibility that older adults must meet to become part of the program.

I walked downstairs and met my driver for the day, John Neerings. I quickly noticed his big smile. It put me at ease. Usually there is some tension between two people when they first meet, but that feeling was nowhere to be found when I was with him.

Of course, we took our time so he could show me exactly where all the meals are cooked and processed. He began walking around the kitchen, which is in the basement of the south county building on 2001 S. State St. I was surprised to see how fast all the employees and volunteers worked.

Meals were taken to different trucks, which were outfitted with a refrigerator and a warming oven. Drivers then quickly left on their routes.

Neerings showed me how the holding section of his truck worked. He had controls by the steering wheel that regulated the temperature.

We got everything ready and it was time for my ride-along. He packed me a Coke and muffins for the ride.

Vital to the community

Jeremy Hart, the independent aging program manager of Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services, said he realized how important the program is to the community once he experienced a ride-along for himself.

In a phone interview, he talked about how vital the meals are for people’s overall health. He told me that the recipients get one-third of their required dietary intake with the meal they get daily.

Hart said the program is growing quickly. Meals on Wheels delivers 1,300 meals per day and currently has around 1,500 clients. In 2013, he said, 330,000 meals — 11,000 more than the previous year — were delivered in Salt Lake County alone.

The volunteer support is substantial. One-third of the drivers who deliver the meals are volunteers. Hart said having them is important to the community and keeps the program from having to start a waiting list for clients.

“The senior population is going to be expanding exponentially by 2020,” he said. “Really soon you’ll have more seniors than you’ll have school-aged kids.”

Meals on Wheels is “a godsend”

As we pulled out of the parking lot, I asked Neerings how he likes his job. The response was more than I had imagined.

“I do love the clients,” he said. “I do care about them. I feel like I’ve got 80 grandmas. I love the job and the people and it gets me exercise.”

Neerings said he enjoys being that “sparkle in their eyes.” That is what motivates him to get going every day — so much so that one of his clients told him the same happy story for about a month straight.

I could see in his eyes that he was struggling when the topic of death was mentioned. I asked if he has many instances of clients who die. He said it happens too often.

I asked Neerings about negative events he’s been through. When he related a few troubling stories, I knew I was in for a long day of emotions.

One client fell during the night and broke her hip. She was unable to reach her phone, so she lay on the floor for hours. Neerings found her in the morning when he brought her a meal. He said he had trouble sleeping for weeks because of it.

Our route took us to places around the city that I didn’t even know were there. Some places I’d like to forget; others were really nice and clean.

One stop after another, we checked homes off the delivery list. We often stayed for longer visits with clients.

June Poulton, 86, who lives near Highland High School, called Meals on Wheels “a godsend.”

“They are the most wonderful people,” she said. “The treat you with respect. They are so comfortable and the food is always so good.”

After visiting about 20 more houses, we talked with Ruth Newbold, 89. She said the food is very good and nutritious and that every once in a while, the driver brings her a treat just to be polite.

Many of the older adults we talked with were very emotional. For example, a woman named Beth was in tears because her son was having some health problems. She looked so lonely. Neerings tried to help her, but there wasn’t that much he could do.

We got back into the truck and an urge to cry came over me. Neerings said he has dealt with instances like that in the past and it is never really easy for him to handle.

“They unload on you when you get there,” he said. “They just need someone to talk to.” He said that Beth was one of the stronger women whom we would be seeing all day.

Neerings also has to deal with frightening situations. Toward the end of the ride, we drove through one of the roughest neighborhoods I’ve ever seen in Utah. As we pulled up to a motel, I was shocked by the awful conditions that Neerings faces weekly. But, he still stopped and said hello to everyone.

As the ride came to an end, he told me about some of his clients who have made him appreciate his job and his health. Neerings, who is 74,  looked forward to returning to the county building in the morning and starting all over again.

The Sandwich Generation: Becoming a parent for your parents

Story and slideshow by NICHOLE BUTTERS

Meet Claire and some of her extended family.

For Claire, raising a family of 15 children in Murray, Utah, has taught her firsthand how to care for and support her children. Now a widow at 86, her children are repaying the favor.

They help her with her daily needs, but they also are the caregivers of their own families. They are members of the Sandwich Generation.

The Sandwich Generation is a term used to describe adults who are supporting a family and are the sole caregivers of their parents or in-laws. According to caregiver.com, “the caregivers find themselves squeezed in between providing for younger loved ones such as children and their older parents or other older family members.”

Some sources also believe that the Sandwich Generation feels pressured into caring for their parents. According to Investopedia, “The sandwich generation is named so because they are effectively ‘sandwiched’ between the obligation to care for their aging parents who may be ill, unable to perform various tasks or in need of financial support, and children who require financial, physical and emotional support.”

This trend is becoming more and more common across the country. In a January 2013 study by the Pew Research Center, “nearly half (47 percent) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising or financially supporting a child. About one in seven middle-aged adults (15 percent) are providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.” The percentage is expected to increase to as much as 60 percent in the next decade.

Louis, 43, is Claire’s youngest child (the family asked that their last name not be published). He knows firsthand what it means to provide for his own family as well as his aging mother.

Living only a few feet away from each other, Louis and Claire’s homes currently share the same acre-lot property. Claire’s home is where Louis grew up as a child.

“It makes it easy to check on her and to make sure she has everything she needs,” Louis said. “I’m grateful she is still around, that we still have her in our lives.”

While Louis isn’t working as a plumber, he is at home checking in with his mom every day to ensure her needs met. Because it is difficult for Claire to attend to household chores and yard work, Louis steps in. He regularly keeps the yard groomed, tends to the pets, checks the oil in the cars and takes care of any household maintenance work. He recently built a new laundry room in his mom’s home right next to the kitchen so she would have easier access to the washer and dryer.

“I appreciate all of my kids’ love and support,” Claire said. “It means the world to me when they visit and help as I get older, and I always enjoy their company. Sometimes you feel invincible like you can do everything, and then you realize that old age doesn’t always allow that.”

Being this close, however, can create some tension within the family. The Sandwich Generation takes care of finances, medication, meals and scheduling for both their older dependents as well as their own families, which can be a struggle for two families to juggle.

“It can be tough to have so much responsibility,” Louis said. “You get so used to your parents taking care of you, and you forget that they need you just as much when they get older. I work to support my wife and daughter every day, but also need to be there for my mom just as much.”

Louis soon realized that time management is key in this unique situation. “The real challenge is finding that balance,” he said. “Making sure that everyone in my household is healthy, happy and comfortable.”

While the balancing can be difficult for caregivers, “the challenges to elders are just as daunting,” according to the self-help site Sandwich Generation. “To lose control of one’s life, even the little things can be shocking and frustrating. … As more baby boomers become both sandwich generationers and seniors, the need to understand aging dynamics and family relationships increases dramatically.”

Claire said, “No matter what age you are, you never want to be a burden to your family. It can be hard to accept their help, even when you truly need it. But allowing your family to serve you blesses them as well.”

For the millennial generation, it is easy to see those blessings. Claire’s grandkids have the opportunity to spend more time with their grandma and learn from her experiences. Kristy, 23, is one of Claire’s 37 grandchildren. “Now that I’m married and have a baby, I realize how lucky I am to not only have the support of my grandma, but also be able to see her so often,” she said. “She was there at my wedding, and all of us know that if we ever need her, she’s just a phone call away.”

Kristy said that Claire, her daughters, grandkids and great grandkids regularly get together at Mimi’s, Village Inn and Marie Calendars throughout the week to talk and catch up.

Kristy will most likely become a “sandwich generationer” at some point in her lifetime. Peter Hebertson, information and referral program manager with Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services, said, “Most women in the US will be caring for her parents or in-laws at some point in her life, and may also be raising children at the same time.”

According to caregiver.com, “the typical American Sandwich Generation Caregiver is in her mid-forties, married, employed and cares for her family and an elderly parent, usually her mother.” Delle, one of Claire’s nine daughters, falls into this category.

Delle regularly drives her mom around to doctor’s appointments, grocery stores and other meetings throughout the week. Although Claire still has a valid driver’s license she gets nervous driving at night and feels safer when she gets a ride with her daughter. Nelson lives in Riverton, Utah, which is a 28-minute drive to her mom’s house in Murray, but the distance was never a problem for her. Delle realizes the important role she now plays in Claire’s health and happiness.

“You spend your life emulating your parents, and before you know it you realize they need you to be there for them,” Delle said. “She’s taught us so much throughout the years, and none of us want to see her lonely as she gets older. I want to be there for her, physically and emotionally.”

Despite the challenges that may come at her age, Claire is still active in her community. She contributes service to the Relief Society and enjoys spending time with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Claire regularly attends aerobics at her local gym with others her age, and is able to cook meals for herself and any of her 78 grandchildren when they are able to visit throughout the year.

Claire’s large family is a personal success that she has always cherished. Because of the loss of two of her children, she treasures the time she has with her family.

“They mean the world to me,” Claire said. “Life isn’t always easy, but you have to get back on your feet every day and make the most of what you have. My family has filled the silence with laughter.”

 

 

 

 

Salt Lake City couple takes PALS program into their own hands

Story and slideshow by STACEY WORSTER

Spend time looking at adoptable pets and meet PALS volunteers Carol and Eric Hochstadt.

The Placing Animals with Loving Seniors (PALS) program managed by The Humane Society of Utah benefits both the owner and animal.

Meghan Zach, a volunteer at the Humane Society, said, “It is very beneficial to both the animal and the owner when the owner is in need of a companion and something to worry about, and the animal gets a new loving owner.”

The Humane Society of Utah, located at 4242 South and 300 West, offers low-price deals to people age 65 and older who are looking for a new addition to their life. The adoption fee is waived when they adopt a dog or cat that is at least 8 years old.

“It gives the seniors something to focus on, a reason to get out of the house,” Zach said.

“A lot of the younger dogs are far too energetic for an older adult to take in,” she said in the foyer of the Humane Society. “That is why we strongly push the older dogs for the seniors to adopt.”

Zach said that when an older adult walks in the door, the adoption counselor on duty always asks about their future plans as a pet owner and arrangements that are in place if an emergency were to occur.

“Unfortunately,” she said, “animals are mostly viewed as property so a lot of people are asked if they have a plan if something unexpected were to happen.”

Zach said helping people pick out their new addition is one of her favorite things to do while volunteering.

“It is different helping seniors pick out their new pet because they have decades of experience,” she said. “It is so fun so hear their stories, they love telling them as well.”

Zach is unsure how many older adults adopt pets at the Humane Society of Utah.

“We don’t keep numbers of who buys what dog,” she said. “I usually do at least two or three senior adoptions a week, and I am just one of six adoption counselors so I am sure the other counselors help seniors as well.”

The Humane Society uses word-of-mouth and advertising to spread the word about the PALS program.

“We have two volunteers that go to the senior living centers, we have the PALS program listed on our website and in newspapers,” Zach said. “Every year the advertising to seniors increases, we are just trying to help them find a friend and companion.”

Eric and Carol Hochstadt have taken the PALS program into their own hands.

“We have been volunteering for The Humane Society of Utah since September of 2009,” Eric said. “After retiring we felt that we could do something more to help the dogs in the shelter, this is when we came across the PALS program.”

The couple has spearheaded the program since October 2013. “Making seniors aware of this opportunity is our hope and desire,” Carol said.

Eric said, “We think our work is effective, and the program is progressing if there is awareness.”

So far, the couple only have anecdotal evidence of the program’s success. They hope counselors will begin noting whether an adoption is through the PALS program so they can gather quantitative data.

“Seniors are smart enough to know that there are plenty of costs that go along with owning an animal,” Carol said.

“Just because they get an animal for small cost or free of charge does not mean it won’t be an expensive purchase,” she said.

The Hochstadts said they are passionate about making older adults mindful of all the options that are available to them.

“Even if they don’t go and adopt an animal, it is interaction for them. As long as we’re helping them, we want to be there,” Eric said.

Carol added, “If seniors decide that owning a pet is not the best idea, they can still come to the Humane Society and walk the dogs. It can give them a sense of responsibility and self-worth.”

Walking a dog can help people strike up conversations with strangers. This is another benefit for an older adult who owns an animal.

“It is very important to have interactions if you want to stay sharp throughout aging,” Carol said. “Having a pet opens up that line of communication. Think of the walks you have gone on and recognized someone’s animal and a conversation started because of the pet.”

The biggest addition to the PALS program is the monthly and sometimes weekly visits the Hochstadts make to different Salt Lake City senior centers.

“We have checked out many different senior centers around the Salt Lake City area. Most of them told us we could not bring animals in,” Carol said. “This defeated our purpose of coming in because having animals there is the whole goal and best advertisement we could have.”

However, Tenth East Senior Center allowed Eric and Carol to bring in animals during their visits.

“The person we talked to at the Tenth East Senior Center was obviously a dog lover and wanted to encourage seniors to adopt a pet,” Carol said.

Because this center allowed the Hochstadts to bring in animals from the Humane Society, they decided to recontact the directors of the other senior centers in the area.

“We told them that Tenth East was allowing us to bring in dogs, and it is a county facility,” Carol said. “They didn’t know what to say so they agreed to let us bring in dogs, but they had to be small dogs, and we have to bring potty pads.”

The couple’s persistence paid off.

“It was great, an employee from a senior center that was adamant about us leaving animals outside the door changed her mind,” Carol said. The employee told her, “If you’d like to come once a month, you should.”

The employees who work at the senior centers give the Hochstadts a call and let them know when there are going to be a lot of people in the building.

“We usually arrive around a quarter to eleven. People seem to be there before lunchtime,” Carol said. “Then we end up talking for awhile and leave around 12:30 p.m.”

The Millcreek Recreation Center put up a table for the Hochstadts to set up their display and talk about the PALS program.

“We sat right next to a fireplace. It was very inviting for people to come and visit,” she said. “It was great because they would tell us their stories about their pets. Even if they aren’t particularly interested in adopting a pet, they are able to tell their stories.”

Many aspects of the PALS program are altered to impress aging adults, but giving people the option to take home a pet can be comforting — as long as it’s a good match.

Carol said a family adopted a puppy for their aging mother, and one week later returned it.

“They came back to the Humane Society and adopted a 10-year-old dog and she loved it. Perfect temperament,” Carol said.

The Hochstadts have found that pet owners find it comforting to care for an older animal.

“Just as they shouldn’t be put out to pasture and considered not valuable because of their age, the older animals that are turned in to the shelter shouldn’t be ignored and considered unadoptable,” Carol said.

The couple said this volunteer job is incredibly rewarding.

“People we have helped adopt a pet still thank us every time they see us,” Eric said. “They say they cannot imagine life without their companion.”

Saving for retirement: start now

Story and slideshow by MARISSA BODILY

Learn about some tools for saving for retirement.

Aging adults are finding that it is very expensive to retire. The need to prepare for that time of life should start early if people want to be able to live comfortably after they stop working.

The average age to retire is 62 years old and the average amount of time a person spends being retired is 18 years. This means that one needs to be able to anticipate the preparation required to provide for themselves financially for 18 years if they don’t want to spend that time working, according to statistics collected by Statistic Brain from the U.S. Census Bureau, Saperston Companies and Bankrate.

“Start saving early,” said Jared Johnsen, a financial planner at BCJ Wealth Management in Salt Lake City. “Establish the habit of putting away a little each pay check. You’ll never miss it, but [your money] will quickly grow.”

The average retirement age is going up because people are having to work longer to prepare sufficient funds. It is their savings that they are going to live off of when they are no longer employed.

In the early 1990s, the average age to retire was 57 years old, according to a 2013 Gallup Economy survey. In the past, workers could rely on Social Security to take care of them financially. It was a much greater possibility for them to be able to sustain themselves with that money instead of having to prepare and save individually. Unfortunately, workers can no longer rely exclusively on Social Security to give them the life they want after they are retired.

Statistic Brain determined that a married couple over age 65 will pay $215,000 for medical treatment over 20 years. Out of 100 people who started working at age 25, only 4 percent will have an adequate amount of money saved for retirement by age 65 and 63 percent are dependent on Social Security, friends, relatives or charity.

“The average person is not prepared,” Johnsen said. “Ten thousand people turn 65 every day and over 50 percent of them have zero savings for retirement. The average retirement plan balance for all 65 year olds is only $33,000.”

Social Security has been the program that people have depended on to help them get through their retirement years. According to CNN Money’s Ultimate Guide to Retirement, the program is based on contributions that workers put in. While employed, the workers pay money to Social Security and reap the benefits when their turn to retire comes.

Social Security is no longer sustainable because instead of a group of people putting money in and only one person taking it out, the ratio is shifting to one-to-one. Essentially, for every person who puts money in, one person is taking money out.

“Don’t count on living off Social Security when you retire,” said Peter Hebertson, information and referral program manager for Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services. “We don’t know what is going to happen with your generation.”

The best thing young people can do to prepare for retirement is obtain an education and save money, Hebertson said.

Because Social Security is no longer a guarantee, people are having to become more self-reliant when it comes to planning for retirement and the future.

Social Security is far from perfect, Johnsen said. It won’t be enough to meet all of our needs, it will just serve as a supplement.

Eighty percent of people age 30 to 54 believe they will not have enough money saved for retirement, according to Statistic Brain.

For those people who are getting closer to retirement and are not prepared, Johnsen said, “They should start now. They should also do some calculations to figure out how much money they need to put away to reach their goals. The older they are, the more they need to put away.”

Calculators are available online to estimate how much money you will need for retirement. They can take into account all your living expenses and other expected costs, including leisure.

There are many options available to help save money effectively. “I would first look at an employer-sponsored qualified retirement plan. Generally they offer match contributions that they put in on your behalf so it’s free money,” Johnsen said. He also suggests looking at a Roth IRA because the growth and distributions after you put your money in are tax free.

“Albert Einstein said his greatest discovery was compound interest. It can work for you or work against you. Start saving early and compound interest will be a great tool,” Johnsen said.

“I meet with numerous people every month,” he said. “I met with one individual that started [saving] when he was young and got in the habit of saving and even with his modest income he was still able to accumulate over $2 million for his retirement needs.”

This is an example of someone who was well prepared and made compound interest work in his favor. However, there are people who have not prepared as well.

“I met with a client who is a doctor that is 55 years old and makes over $500,000 a year in income,” Johnsen said. “But he also spends $500,000 a year on lavish travel, fancy cars, a huge home, etc. He asked me to help him save for retirement and was completely embarrassed to tell me that he has only accumulated $30,000 in an IRA. Yet he wants to live off of $250,000 a year when he retires. He wants to retire in 10 years. I told him he basically needs to save every penny over the next 10 years to reach his goal. Or he needs to retire on much less or wait longer to retire. The reality is that he needs to do all three.”

Saving for retirement is a reality that the young and old need to face and prepare for in order to have a comfortable and pleasurable future that continues beyond the working years.