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Science and community leadership host services for San Juan seniors

The Coalition of Metropolitan Area Public Housing Residents, in collaboration with Laboratorio de Ciencia Comunitaria, a program run by the nonprofit Ciencia Puerto Rico (CienciaPR), recently held the Services Fair for Seniors. The event marked the culmination of workshops and activities aimed at improving the quality of life of older adults through science and community engagement. 

The fair was held at the Renaissance Square Condominium, formerly Residencial Las Gladiolas, in Hato Rey. Dozens of participants, including older adults and other members of the community, were able to take advantage of the services and orientation from more than a dozen health and housing service providers.

These included pediatric and adult vaccinations, the Community Legal Office of Inter American University, Puerto Rico Community Engagement Alliance (PR CEAL), Iniciativa Comunitaria, and Puerto Rico’s Department of the Family.

“From our community, we seek not only to make the situation and problems faced by older adults visible, but also to create spaces and offer alternatives for each of us to live as we deserve,” said Mirta Colón-Pellecier, president of the coalition, community leader, activist and an older adult herself.

“We recognize the importance of having the necessary information to be able to access and identify the help that is required to prevent our elderly from suffering loneliness, segregation, being victims of fraud and other acts that put their health and safety at risk,” she said.

“In addition, they can learn about the importance of nutrition in this population and be prepared for an emergency,” added Colón-Pellecier.

She organized the fair and the workshops and activities that preceded it as part of her involvement in the Laboratorio de Ciencia Comunitaria or CienciaCoLab, also under CienciaPR, which is a collaborative space that provides tools, workshops, mentoring and seed funding for community leaders on the island to design and implement local science-based projects.

Colón-Pellecier, with six other community leaders, participated in several trainings, conversations and wrote a proposal to fund the project for older adults.

“CienciaCoLab wants science to be a tool for empowering communities in Puerto Rico, while recognizing and valuing the context, practical knowledge and particular uses of science that communities already have,” said Mónica I. Feliú-Mójer, director of CienciaCoLab and the Division of Public Engagement with Science for Ciencia Puerto Rico.

“Community leaders like Mirta play an essential role in addressing the needs and priorities of their communities. It is extremely important for us to collaborate with leaders like her and support them with diverse resources to make them successful,” she said.

“Projects like Mirta’s exemplify the many ways in which science can be put in service of Puerto Rico, especially marginalized populations such as the elderly,” added Feliú-Mójer, who is also a scientist. 

Citing Puerto Rico Department of Health statistics, the groups said that aging in Puerto Rico has increased by more than 8.5% in the last decade. A 2023 United Nations report ranks Puerto Rico seventh globally for oldest population. 

Twenty-seven percent of the island’s population is over 60, according to the report. Older adults face information and technology gaps, and many live alone, face abandonment, and food and housing insecurity. According to 2020 Census data, 43% of Puerto Rico’s seniors live below the poverty level. 

“Coalition of Metropolitan Area Public Housing Residents thanks CienciaColab and CienciaPR for sponsoring this marathon. It has been a very important initiative for our community, especially for our seniors,” said Colón-Pellecier.

“We call on the leadership of our communities and all citizens of our island to prioritize this issue and see what is possible. All we need is the will and the desire. We remain vigilant; from the community, we do our part. Now, to the leaders and politicians of the [island]: The ball is in your court. We want to see action,” said the community leader.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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