Aging Asian Population in New York
From The World Journal
June 22, 2004

The Asian senior population in New York is on the rise. Many of them live in poverty and are suffering from cultural barriers, depression and anxiety.

Unfortunately, City Hall has continued to cut back on the Department for the Aging budget, forcing senior citizen homes that accommodate large numbers of Asian senior citizens to face crisis in their operation and survival.

Some directors at those senior citizen homes attribute the problem to the fact that Asians are a minority in politics.
On June 21, the City Council Committee for the Aging held a meeting to discuss strategies to counter problems brought by the growing number of Asian and Hispanic senior citizens in the city.

According to the 2000 New York City Census, the number of Asian senior citizens grew by 86 percent between 1990 and 2000, and the number continues to grow.

Meanwhile, statistics from the Department of the Aging shows that 24.4 percent of Asian senior citizens in New York City live in poverty, surpassing that of African Americans, which is at 23.3 percent. Overall, 18 percent of the senior citizens in New York City live in poverty.

Another survey, conducted by the Asian American Alliance, showed that Asian senior citizens are almost all immigrants and less than one-fourth of them consider their English less than sufficient.

On top of that, the budget cut in City Hall is not helping.

Pauline Wu, Director of the senior citizen center of the Chinese American Planning Council, said the number of senior citizens has grown sharply while City Hall has continued to cut its budgets. In addition, the employees at the senior center have not gotten a raise in five years.

“We, the senior citizen home directors, are the most miserable bunch because we are stuck in the middle and feel so helpless,” she said.

Wu added that they have participated in numerous protests and public hearings but have yet to receive any positive response from City Hall. “Traditionally, the Asian community has no interests in politics,” she said. “That’s why we have no voice, no power and no money.”

Most Asian senior citizens live by themselves or with their spouses, Wu added. They made low wages when they were young, resulting in low pensions in their old age. Among other things, the most difficult part for them is housing. Those who are lucky enough to win the draw to move into government-subsidized apartments are few, so most senior citizens living in private apartments spend most of their pension and welfare checks on rent.

Wu called on Chinese Americans who successfully broke into mainstream society to lend a helping hand to senior citizen centers and help them get through their financial crisis.

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Translated from Chinese by Larry Tung.

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