49, San Francisco, CA

My name is María Sánchez and I’m 49 years old. I was born in Mexico and I’ve lived in San Francisco for the last 28 years. I have two children – my daughter is 23 years old and my son is 21 years old.

My son has cerebral palsy and I’ve been his caregiver all his life. It has been and continues to be quite a challenge for me. When I started taking care of my son I didn’t know anything about how to do it, but I figured it out, and it changed my life completely.

And as I get older, I worry about losing my own skills and strength. I look around and see that half of the older adults around me are aging with dignity, but the other half don’t have the same resources to afford care, and have to work until their last day just to survive.

Because I’m also a caregiver, I always have to be available to my son and am always on call. My son and I depend on IHSS (in-home supports and services) for his full care needs, which helps a bit. But I still can’t work full-time or get a second job to be more financially stable and save for our futures, so I’ll probably never be able to retire. San Francisco is unjustly expensive, but if we move, we may lose access to IHSS. Plus, the cost of moving in itself is expensive.

If I had more money, I would have peace of mind that my needs as I age would be taken care of, and that my kids would be taken care of, too. I worry my daughter will end up needing to spend the rest of her life taking care of me without any support, and the cycle will continue. I really want society to understand that we are all going to get older and we will need help as we get older, no matter what. My vision for the future would be that information about aging and caregiving is available from an early age. We shouldn’t be afraid of it, we should talk about it and plan for it and see it as an inevitable part of life.