How do aging immigrants fill their days when they don't speak English well and their kids and grandkids are busy with work and school? We take a look at the growing number of senior centers for immigrants across the United States.
What do you do if you’re a working immigrant and a member of the sandwich generation? That is, you have children in school who need tutoring and shuttling about to music lessons or sports practice, but you also have aging parents who may not speak English well.
Luckily, there is a growing movement of senior centers who cater to the elderly immigrant population. Take, for example, the Multicultural Senior Center of Snohomish, WA. It holds regular meetings and activities for many of the area’s senior newcomers. Korean seniors meet twice a week to enjoy karaoke in their native language, to play a familiar board game called janggi, or to savor a hearty bowl of a national beef dish called bulgogi.
Experience has shown that immigrants who uproot later in life, especially those who follow working children to a new land, have a hard time adapting to the new culture and new language. These centers give them a chance to interact in their native language and support each other while their busy children and grandchildren engage in their daily routines.
The Center currently sponsors events for five language communities: Filipino, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, and Chinese.
While the seniors can come to play games or socialize, they can also access professional services from social workers or talk to counselors regarding health or housing issues.
And it turns out the Snohomish center is inspiring more than the immigrant community it serves. Center coordinator Connie Hallgarth remarked on how much respect immigrants show for their elderly. That is something, she says, we can all aspire to.