Revista Horizontes: primavera/otoño 2011 | Año LIV Núms. 104-105
38 enhance the quality of life of older adults through the direct and indirect involvement of relatives in the provision of care to these individuals. The program mandates direct relatives to provide assistance (alimony) to their older adults to the extent of their available resources. In the program, the concept of alimony refers to economic and non-economic assistance. As so, the provision of transportation, accompaniment, visitation, and attention are considered variations of alimony rendered to older adults. When a complaint is filed, relatives who are unwilling or unavailable to provide this alimony will have to go through one of two processes to resolve the issue: the administrative process or the adversary one. The recommended administrative process is implemented through the use of an alternative dispute resolution method known as mediation. The goal of the mediation process in PROSPERA is that all relatives can play a role in the care of their older adult. If relatives are unable to reach an agreement in the assistance plan for their older adult or a particular relative is unwilling to follow the agreement, a court hearing is recommended. The program provides legal services, free of charge, to older adults who are in need of representation. PROSPERA also has an educational component. Under the educational component social workers play fundamental roles as educators. Social workers prepare relatives for the mediation process and also promote the services of the program through media tours, informing about the shared responsibility between the family and the state when caring for older adults. We are suggesting the PROSPERA model as a framework for the enhancement of service delivery and the quality of life of older adults with disabilities. Although the law itself was not created specifically for people who were aging with disabilities or who acquired a disability later in life, we recognize it as a great tool when working with this population. In Puerto Rico, as in many other places around the world, caring for your own family is a moral and cultural obligation. We recognize that individuals aging with disabilities in the island are care for primarily by their parents, oftentimes the mother, and that leaves us with the question of who is going to look after these individuals as they age and their parents, who may be in need of care themselves, are no longer able to look after them. We also take into consideration those individuals who acquired a disability later in life and may need the assistance and support of relatives to sustain or improve the quality of their living conditions. A model of shared responsibility between relatives and the state could be the answer to this issue as we prepare for more budget cuts due to economic downturns and the financial burden of the state of welfare. Implications The report of the Center of Demography and Ecology at the University of Wisconsin, along with the Pan American Health Organization in 2002 pointed that societies overloaded with unsatisfied health care demands of the chronically ill, functionally disabled, and the mentally and physically impaired due to aging, evoke stagnant economies, heavy taxation burdens and dismal prospects for future generations (Palloni, Devos & Pelaez, 2002). The mutual relationship between the economy and the social security system may occur in a fragile institutional environment for the older adults in Puerto Rico because of the dismantled protecting nets of public policy planning and decisions (Monteverde et al., 2009). Policymaking requires a wider view of policy engagement (Gerston, 2002). Thus, the needs of older adults with disabilities require political discussion as a problem combing double rooted consequences of the processes of aging and disability. Under the Healthy People 2010 strategy of the Department of Public Heath and Services, or DHHS, a possible solution suggests building healthy communities with access to social and public services, safe, and healthy environments as elements that enable people to maintain a high quality of life and productivity (DHHS, 2010). However, improved access and reduced social barriers for older adults with disabilities require social and political tools. PROSPERA is an alternative to address aging with disability in Puerto Rico and could be emulated in other countries. As economic downturns affect the welfare of Puerto Rican older adults with disabilities, responsibilities would have to be shared between citizens and the state. Countries around the world are in need of innovative practice models for working with the population of older adults with disabilities. This special population requires particular practice and service techniques, depending on their diagnosis. Each diagnosis has to be treated independently. We suggest social work practice models based on evidence-based practice using the strength perspective approach and empowerment theories. Research in the area, particularly in Latin American Countries and Puerto Rico, is needed. There is a dearth of literature available discussing older adults with disabilities who are members of minority races or from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Research is critical for further understanding. We make a call to researchers to take into account Latinos and other minorities in their research agenda. Social work researchers and practitioners are in an excellent position to write about their research findings and develop best practice models merging the gap between research and practice. References Alexandris, K., Barkoukis, V., & Tsorbatzoudis, H. (2007). Does the theory of planned behavior elements mediate the relationship between perceived constraints and intention to participate in physical activities? A study among older individuals. European Review of Aging in Physical Activity , 4, 39-48.