About Going Gray in LA

Written by and

Los Angeles is a rapidly aging city in a rapidly aging county. In fact, by 2030, LA County’s senior population will double, to nearly one-fifth the total population.

This growth will change the city.

There will be an even greater strain on already strapped health care, social security, affordable housing, and other senior services; more families will live in multi-generational homes and struggle to provide for aging parents; there will be an even-greater shortage of senior-equipped housing; and more individuals will be forced to work past retirement age.

Going Gray in LA: Stories of aging along Broadway will follow iconic Broadway through the heart of some of the city’s most diverse working class neighborhoods to explore what it looks like, what it sounds like, and what it feels like to be growing old in LA today.

Going Gray in LA will take you from a popular senior center in Lincoln Heights to affordable housing projects in Chinatown, a model tight-knit community in Little Tokyo, and a caregiving home in South LA.

Through intimate personal stories and photographs, you’ll get to know individuals, families, neighbors and communities that are already confronting the challenges of growing old in the heart of LA.

When USC’s Roybal Institute on Aging conducted its Healthy Aging Report 2015, one of the most comprehensive reports on LA’s older residents, it found that Angelenos overall are living longer, but that there are significant differences in health prospects for older adults of certain racial and ethnic backgrounds, depending on where they live in the county. Geography matters.

Can seniors walk down the street? Get to a good supermarket? Use public transportation easily? If not, their quality of life suffers.

“Coming from a public health perspective, it isn’t health care per se that’s going to make the difference,” said William Vega, lead author of the Healthy Aging Report. “It’s going to be quality of life and communities.” According to Vega, the key to having a high quality of life depends on whether or not “people are empowered are to have some self-determination.” Many factors contribute to making a good quality of life for seniors, but when absent they can also, “keep people, unfortunately, isolated and make it less able for them to participate actively and stay stimulated and engaged.”

Stories on the radio, online and exhibited in the public space will feature a population that often feels invisible. We hope you’ll join us over the next year as we learn from our elders — what really matters as we all grow older in the big city.

About Ruxandra Guidi and Bear Guerra

Producer Ruxandra Guidi and photographer Bear Guerra are a wife-and-husband team that has been collaborating for almost twelve years. Their work can be found at fonografiacollective.com and bearguerra.com.

Audio stories for this series were edited by Myke Dodge Weiskopf.

KCRW thanks The Eisner Foundation for their support of this project.