Yadira Montoya

Yadira Montoya
Location: Chicago, Illinois Cohort Start Year: 2019 Project Topics: Arts in Health and Healing, Elder Care, Immigrants and Refugees Populations Served: Hispanic/Latino/Latinx, Immigrants and Refugees, Low-Income Communities, Older Adults (65+)
Health Program Officer
Lloyd A. Fry Foundation

Yadira’s interest in health, and her belief that healthcare is a basic human right, began as a young girl when she served as her parents’ ad hoc advocate, interpreter, and “care coordinator.” In high school, her interest expanded to advocating for the health of her community—La Villita—when she became involved in an environmental health justice campaign. While she has held many roles in the nonprofit, research, and philanthropy sector, her true passion is working with elders in her community. She is deeply interested and committed to working to improve the lives of the growing number of Latinx older adults, especially of families living with dementia. By 2060, there will be 19.9 million Latinx people aged 65 and older living in the U.S., about 21 percent of the total 65 and older population. The number of Latinx living with Alzheimer’s disease is projected at 3.5 million by 2060—a growth of 832 percent. In 2016, Yadira became a founding member of La BROCHA (Latinas/os Buscando Refugio y Optimismo Cuando Hacen Arte), a community art program for Spanish-speaking families. Since then, La BROCHA has provided quality culturally relevant art programming to Latinx adults over 60 years old with memory loss, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease, living in disinvested communities in Chicago and surrounding suburbs.

STRATEGIC INITIATIVE: Establish a Cultural Archive of Equitable Practices for Supporting Latino/a Immigrant Elders and Families Living with Alzheimer’s or a Related Dementia
My strategic initiative seeks to expand current narratives about aging in place and caregiving by documenting the stories of Latino/a immigrant elders and family caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia (ADRD). My project will collect oral histories of individuals and families living in Little Village, a community located in the southwest side of Chicago. This project will explore and elevate the experiences of Latino/a elders as they age and the families who must navigate the immigration system as they provide care for a loved one with ADRD. The goal of this project is to: (1) build a community archive of oral histories of Latino immigrant older adults and ADRD caregivers; (2) disseminate and make these stories accessible via a community exhibit; and (3) convene an advisory committee to synthesize experiences and needs of immigrant Latino/a elders. Ultimately, the community archive will serve as a cultural resource that can be used to design and implement equitable policies, programs, and services for Latino/a elders and families living with ADRD. To achieve these objectives, I will collaborate with individuals possessing personal and professional expertise in the fields of aging, the arts, and public health.

Yadira is a public health leader who believes that healthcare is a basic human right. As a Mexican immigrant raised in Chicago’s La Villita neighborhood, Yadira’s social justice and health equity values are informed by her experiences helping her family and community navigate the health system. This deep knowledge and awareness of structures and systems that are set up to exclude certain groups have allowed Yadira to be an effective health equity advocate and bring a grounded perspective to her various roles in the nonprofit, academia, and most recently, the philanthropy sector.

Click here to watch Yadira’s Legacy Project video.