Taos Pueblo: Lillian Romero Senior Citizen Center
Taos Pueblo officials and the community turned out Saturday morning (July 28, 2018) to honor a determined powerhouse advocate for elders by naming the senior center after her.
The Lillian F. Romero Senior Center was dedicated to the woman who fought for the funds to build it.
"Lillian was quite a lady," said Taos Pueblo Gov. Gilbert Suazo Sr. "She was a participant in our tribal way of life here. She raised a family here."
"She was always a friendly person and she would always say what she thought," continued Suazo, as some in the crowd chuckled at memories of the woman who refused to take no for an answer. "We were blessed with her."
Romero's long-term dream was to create an elder day-care and long-term living facility at the pueblo. She died in June 2017 before she could realize that dream, but those at the event said plans are underway to make such an elder care facility a reality.
Romero worked for the pueblo for 37 years, most of those as director of the senior center. She took seniors on trips, organized activities and ensured they had meals at the center. She devoted herself to the elderly and that was not an easy job, said the governor. "It takes patience and commitment," Suazo said.
She lobbied the Taos Pueblo government and the state Legislature to raise the more than one million dollars needed to build a senior center complete with an exercise room, kitchen, dining area and a comfortable area to simply hang out and visit.
Speaker after speaker thanked the governor, other pueblo officials and the tribal council for dedicating the building to Romero's memory.
"This center, this building, is the physical embodiment of one individual's courage, strength, intelligence, wisdom and character," said Ezra Bayles, the pueblo's Health and Community Services director. "It is a monument to her service and to what she gave to the community."
But she didn't do it for accolades, he said. "She built this center as a sanctuary, a place to congregate, a place to socialize, a place to eat and a place for community," he said.
“We care for our elders. We treat them with respect, honor, and dignity, because our wisdom comes from them. I have learned so much from them; day and night…I teach my staff that.” ~ Lillian Romero, Director, Taos Pueblo Senior Citizen Center
The Taos Pueblo Senior Citizen Center supports its tribal caregivers through funding received from Title VI, Part C. The program provides respite care, training, information, referral, and equipment. The Center also hosts a number of community events such as dinners, shopping excursions, and workshops.
Operated by: Taos Pueblo
Location: Taos, NM
Marina Rough, Senior Citizen Program Manager
190 Rio Lucero Road. Taos, NM 87571
Taos Pueblo Senior Citizen Center is a tribally operated program that provides services to the community’s elders and tribal members. The Center provides caregiver support services through Title VI, Part C.
The Taos Pueblo Senior Citizen Center has developed strategies that work for its community to provide support to caregivers through partnerships that created an extensive referral program, conducted outreach to the community to raise awareness about training opportunities, and emphasized respect for elders’ cultural considerations.
The Taos Pueblo Senior Citizen Center communicates with local agencies to identify resources, provide training, and make respite care available for caregivers. These local agencies include:
• Various community health services
• The state Social Services Department
• A state-operated Home Health Care Agency
• Organizations with knowledge about diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and other specialized diseases
The Center’s community of elders is small and tight-knit. They are generally cautious of outside help coming into their homes. The Center respects elders’ wishes and uses community members to provide respite or caregiver services.
The Taos Pueblo Senior Citizen Center offers various trainings for caregivers, including group lectures or individualized sessions. To address low turnout to trainings, the Center uses unique outreach strategies to reach caregivers, including:
• Home visits to caregivers
• Flyers developed and posted in popular community centers
• Public service announcements played on the local radio station
Funding sources for the Taos Pueblo Senior Citizen Center include:
• Title VI, Part C grant monies for caregiver support services
• A New Mexico state grant to assist with operational costs
• Other local programs that provide caregiver training
The Taos Pueblo Senior Citizen Center hopes to increase the range and availability of services provided to caregivers and elders by establishing an adult day care center and a new senior citizen center. They are looking into third-party billing from Medicaid for services they provide. The Center plans to provide training in First Aid and CPR for caregivers. The Center would also like to provide training for caregivers focused on care for elders with disabilities—caring for those who spend much of their time in bed, use a wheelchair, or live with dementia.
The Taos Pueblo Senior Citizen Center would like to see the services provided to caregivers and elders grow. Since individuals other than immediate family provide many elder caregiver services, the Center still must address issues of isolation and cultural sensitivity. Transportation, staffing, and cultural sensitivity trainings are three areas the Center hopes to build on for caregivers inside and outside of the community.
“The senior program is always out there, providing services…We also give information to the family, [letting them know] there are services available to them.”
~ Lillian Romero, Former Director, Taos Pueblo Senior Citizen Center