Ghaddra González Castillo is a Venezuelan social communicator. In 1995, she migrated to the United States and she has lived in Africa, Asia, Europe, America and the Middle East, exploring and learning from diverse cultures. Ghaddra has worked closely with vulnerable communities, especially women and children. In Seattle, she has volunteered at Casa Latina and Mary’s Place to support and empower those in need. Currently, she works at Path with Art, an organization dedicated to helping individuals experiencing homelessness, addiction, and other traumas, using the power of art as a tool for healing and personal growth.
For you, what does healthy aging mean?
It has to do with basic things like sleeping, eating well, and exercising. For example, my father in law who is 95 years old and still going to the gym three times a week, and until five years ago, he played golf. Those people live up to 100 years because they exercise, eat well, and stay very active.
What is required to achieve healthy aging?
The first thing that comes to mind is people’s economic possibilities because it is not the same for a professional with a stable job and stable family to afford a healthy diet, as it is for people who do not have the economic resources to buy organic products or eat healthily. It also has to do with education. If you are not exposed to the benefits of exercise that helps your heart, or the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, it is related to education and what we are exposed to.
Also, the environment around you plays a part, which is not related to money or education. In some places, healthy products are very expensive, so people buy what is on sale, canned food, etc. The climate of the place where you live may not be conducive to walking, for example, in Dubai, where temperatures can reach up to 104 F. But, for example, I lived in Singapore, which is very hot, people walk in the parks because it is part of the culture and routine.
How has your experience as a migrant influenced your perspective on aging?
You learn from other cultures, nourish oneself, and grow. You become more tolerant, you learn not to judge, not to label people. Every culture is different, every religion is different, and every way of seeing the world is different. When you travel around the world, you are never the same, and when you return to your country and your people, you are no longer the same. Being exposed to different people makes you more tolerant and helps you to understand the differences between cultures, and celebrate them, not necessarily by traveling, but by being exposed to different people.
Contributor Priscilla Carmiol-Rodriguez is a PhD in Nursing Science student at the University of Washington and a de Tornyay Center for Healthy Aging Pre-doctoral Scholar. Carmiol-Rodriguez’s research interests include sleep and health inequities.