Without public transportation to get around or language skills to communicate in their suburban surroundings, many of these seniors — feeling isolated and lost — have turned to adult day care service providers that cater to immigrant communities. The number of such suburban centers with a cultural sensitivity has exploded in the last 10 years, from two in 2005 to 14 today, serving an estimated 3,500 seniors, according to Marta Pereyra, executive director of the Coalition of Limited Speaking Elderly.
Despite the growth, centers can’t keep up with demand. There are still hundreds of senior immigrants in the suburbs left home alone because the day cares cannot accommodate them, the centers’ directors say. And with proposed changes to the state program that distributes Medicaid funding to cover the cost of the care, advocates contend that droves of ethnic adults may soon lose the sense of community that keeps them from becoming a further drain on public dollars in state-funded nursing homes.
“They’re following their adult children and their grandchildren (to the U.S.) and are ending up in the suburban areas, and then they discover that these locations don’t have much in the way of services that are culturally specific,” Pereyra said. “They need to have some access to their peers, their ethnic foods, some kind of meaningful activities.”…
“For seniors in suburbs, they’re just isolated in the home. They feel useless, their self-esteem is hurt, they just feel depressed,” Yang said. “We need to give them some time and space for themselves, and we need to teach them English.”
There will be even more need for such centers as (1) more immigrants move directly to the American suburbs (and the numbers several years ago were around 40%) and (2) the American population ages. As the article notes, the suburbs presents a unique challenge for putting these centers together as they have to range wider to pull in people who are more spread out. As opposed to cultural centers in urban enclaves in the city, people can’t just hop on public transit or walk a few blocks – they need to be rescued from their private homes.
And the next question to ask is: what happens to all of these seniors once they can’t make it to these community centers and instead need more medical care or assistance?