We serve the South Asians who are above 60 years old–one of the fastest growing and most overlooked groups of elderly in New York city.
New York city has one of the largest concentrations of South Asian immigrants in the United States. From 1990 to 2010, the South Asian community in New York city ballooned to over 400,000. Most of our community were born in India, but we also serve immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Tibet, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan and diasporas thereof, such as Guyana, Trinidad, and Uganda. South Asians speak a number of different languages including Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali, Urdu, Nepali, Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam. Many of the South Asians who migrated to the US in the 1960’s and 1970’s are now reaching retirement age. Moreover, South Asian elderly are now migrating to the US in larger numbers as a result of the Family Reunification Act. In NYC, our community of South Asian seniors are mostly concentrated in Queens, with particular concentrations in the Jamaica, Jackson Heights, Astoria, Flushing and Bellerose neighborhoods.
The aging of the South Asian population makes it imperative that service providers, organizations and government agencies understand their unique health and social service needs. However, historically, the South Asian immigrant elderly population has been vastly under-served.
The aging of the South Asian population makes it imperative that service providers, organizations and government agencies understand their unique health and social service needs.
At its newest center, India Home serves over 150 mostly Bangladeshi seniors on a regular basis, offering men and women a chance to convene and share their stories and lives. Many of the seniors we serve come from low-income households:
- In 2000, Bangladeshi New Yorkers’ per capita income was $10,479 – less than half of the city-wide figure ($22,402)
- Nearly one-third (31 percent) of all Bangladeshis in the city lived in poverty – surpassing 21 percent of all New Yorkers.
- Among Bangladeshis, 35 percent of senior citizens experienced poverty – compared with 18 percent of all senior citizens in New York City.
- The majority (60 percent) of all Bangladeshi New Yorkers – compared with 24 percent of all city residents – had “Limited English Proficiency.”
Why South Asian elderly need more support
Many South Asian elderly have limited resources, including less education and limited English skills, and lack information on navigating complex government benefits, such as Medicare and food stamps. Many are far from the familiar comforts of home and suffer mental health issues, depression and have to depend inordinately on their children. Studies show that some subgroups in the South Asian community also suffer from unique mental health needs such as depression caused by discrimination. A lack of social support systems has been blamed for the loneliness and anxiety reported in these populations. India Home’s array of services, socialization opportunities and ongoing advocacy are thus particularly important in addressing these problems.