Golden Years in the Golden State: Meet 6 California Seniors

28 min
Cristina Hernandez sits near her dad, Francisco Rios, 91, in her Pomona home. Hernandez has been his primary caregiver for 15 years.  (Sean Havey/California Dream)

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California is going gray. Within a decade one in five of the state’s residents will be a senior — that’s a higher percentage than Florida — a state known for its retirees. This week, we’re going to meet six California seniors, whose stories point the way ahead for all of us here in the Golden State.

Discovering the World, Back at School

Around the state there are 134,000 public college students over the age of 50. KQED’s Vanessa Rancaño takes us to Fresno to meet a senior who’s trying to finish his undergrad degree, nearly four decades after starting college.

A Retired Chef Finds Joy Cooking for His Community

As more and more Californians retire, there’s a growing pool of people with time on their hands. Community organizations could put them to work. But seniors in California have a relatively low volunteer rate. KQED’s Farida Jhabvala Romero introduces us to a 77-year old San Francisco man who’s found a way to give back: cooking for his community.

A High-Speed Life, Without a Car

Many California seniors are concentrated in suburbs and rural areas, where driving a car is pretty much the only transportation option. So what happens when older adults can no longer get behind the wheel? Especially when they’re part of a generation that’s expected to be more active and independent? Megan McCarty Carino brings us the story of a woman who’s found a new way to get around Los Angeles.

A Farmer Goes in Search of a Successor

As we explore aging in the Golden State, we can’t forget California farmers are getting older, too. According to the latest census from the USDA, the average age of farmers here has climbed to 59. As they age out of the fields, these farmers face big decisions about whether to sell the farm, pass it onto their kids, or figure out something else. Capital Public Radio's Julia Mitric takes us to rural Nevada County, to meet a farming couple who grappled with these questions.

When Finding Work is a Necessity, and Nearly Impossible

Not all California seniors can afford to retire. More Californians are working past the age of 65. In fact, 20 percent of California seniors are still in the labor force. But the seniors who most need a job often have the hardest time finding one. KPCC's David Wagner brings us a profile of one woman who is determined to get a job — no matter what.

Cared for by the Daughter He Barely Knew

By 2030, one out of five Californians will be a senior. And experts say there won’t be enough caregivers to help. This next story is about a senior in Los Angeles whose daughter takes care of him. As CAL Matters’ Elizabeth Aguilera tells us, she never expected to be the one caring for him because she didn’t grow up with her dad. He migrated to the United States from Mexico, and the family stayed behind in Tijuana. It wasn’t until his daughter was an adult — and came to the U.S. herself — that she began to get to know her father.