By Kevin Brown | Bio
Recently, I came across an article from the New York Times entitled "Invisible Immigrants, Old and Left With ‘Nobody to Talk To’", concerning elderly immigrants in the United States and the loneliness and isolation that many of them experience, especially those who speak little or no English.
The article references Mr. Devendra Singh, a 79-year-old widower, who commented on differences he observed in people in North America and people in India. “Here people think about what is convenient and inconvenient for them.” He notes that in India, there is a favorable bias towards the elderly. And Professor Teas, a sociology professor and demographer at the University of California, Irvine, also noted in the article that, "Reliant on their children, late-life immigrants are a vulnerable population. They come anticipating a great deal of family togetherness. But American society isn’t organized in a way that responds to their cultural expectations.”
I hold the view that loneliness, isolation, and the desire for family togetherness is shared by an increasing number of seniors right across North America. These experiences and desires are not unique to immigrants, although they may indeed be more pronounced.
During the last few weeks, my brother-in-law, my wife and myself have been visiting my mother-in-law in Edmonton, while she is recovering in hospital from a fall and an unrelated infection. At this time, it looks favorable that she will be able to return to her assisted living complex. During our visits, each of us have noticed the infrequent visits to other seniors in the same ward as my mother-in-law. In fact, this experience reminds me of our visits to my mother while she was in hospital six years ago. The periodic visits to her ward mates was just as noticeable. How the seniors in my mother-in-law’s ward must long for the experience of family togetherness that was present for their parents and for their grandparents.
In discussions with my mother and my mother-in-law (while they were in hospital), each had plenty of time to share their experiences of family life while they were growing up. The family was the centre of life. And the deep closeness that typified their families was a source of pride. Now, of course, family members are lucky if they live in the same city or country. Mr. Singh’s comment about people’s concern for what is convenient and inconvenient begs the question, “Do we make time for the seniors in our life?” If not, and if these relationships are important to us, we must find and create other ways to keep connected.
At the Eldering Institute®, we are committed to transforming the conversation about what is possible as we grow older. The first two commitments in the Eldering Manifesto call us into a new possibility and vision for growing older and relating to one another with respect and dignity. I invite you take a few minutes to read it and add your name to the hundreds of people who are committed to Eldering™. Let’s work together to connect with seniors in the communities in which we live.
© 2009 Kevin Brown. All rights reserved.