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Abstract

The population of older adults in the United States is currently growing at unprecedented rates, as is the proportion of those older adults who are of Latino descent. Despite a diversifying population of older adults, much of the research exploring the social context of health and aging does not consider the ways in which the sociocultural environment may differ by ethnicity. The objective of this dissertation is to explore and document the ways in which the social environment and cultural context are related to health and disability outcomes among aging Latinos. This examination explores how the social world of disabled Latinos differs from their non-Latino counterparts, how those differences may drive differential experiences of care receipt upon the onset of disability, and how older Latinos themselves articulate their desires for “aging well” and care receipt in old age. Ultimately, I argue that the relationship between social context and physical and psychological health outcomes varies according to the cultural values and preferences of the community in which an individual is embedded. For Latinos in particular, the cultural values of familismo and respeto can produce social relationships that are protective against adverse health outcomes in old age, but these values can also paradoxically produce their own anxieties and present unique challenges to “aging well” among Latinos.

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