48, San Francisco, CA

My name is Cesia Álvarez, and I’m 48 years old. I was born in Mexico and I’ve lived in San Francisco, California since 2013. As a person who’s getting older with a disability, I’m well aware that if you’re not rich, you won’t have the access to the support you need to have a dignified life. Health insurance doesn’t always cover everything you need. If you’re in a program that provides you with paid caregivers, their salary is so ridiculously low that it makes it difficult to find them. If you have a family member who can be your caregiver, that can affect the interpersonal dynamics, mental health, financial capacity, and overall relationship with you and your family. In my case, I don’t qualify to have my own paid caregiver, so I depend on people around me to have time to help me even with basic things such as buying groceries, moving furniture, cleaning the house.

It’s inevitable to think back on my years full of youth, health, and energy, when I didn’t have to worry as much about money or spending, when my body was capable and didn’t hurt. I worry that in a few years everything will be even more difficult.

I can’t help but think about how in Mexican culture elders are loved, respected and cared for by their family and community. Even in large cities where someone might live alone, there’s usually someone who stays close to them. In the United States things are so different. There are so many barriers to caring for people as they age. As a caregiver myself, I meditate on the lessons I’ve learned from those I care for – that it’s okay to cry but to try not to allow yourself to remain stuck in hopelessness, to always look for the solutions that exist around you, and that I can find my own joy even when things are hard.

My dream for the future: I would love for everyone to understand that I am happy, and to look at me as a full person instead of looking at me with pity. And I would love for our government to give more support for caregivers and people who need care, so that we can all age with choice and dignity. I’m already looking for somewhere I can live with other elders and people with disabilities, because I want to be in a place where there are people with whom I identify, and where I can make friends and be in community.