Chinese Elder Outreach: How Cultural Barriers Affect Elder Abuse

This blog post was written by Antonio Gonzalez, a second year law student at Boston College Law School and an Equal Justice Works Elder Justice AmeriCorps law student who worked with the Elder Abuse Prevention Project of Greater Boston Legal Services this Summer

On June 27th, 2018, the Elder Justice Team at Greater Boston Legal Services conducted an Elder Abuse Prevention Outreach at Wollaston Senior Center in Quincy. Our goal was to raise awareness in the Chinese elder community about types of elder abuse, discuss specific cultural barriers to assistance, encourage reporting, and provide effective ways of getting help. The Asian American Service Association Inc. (AASA) established the Wollaston Senior Center as one program to help serve the needs of Asian Americans in the Quincy area. The Center and the staff there have created a welcoming and safe environment to talk about these difficult issues.

“The Wollaston Senior Center is open Monday through Friday, in the morning. The Center provides a broad variety programs that include Qi-Gon classes, English classes, Chinese nutritional meals, social services, interpretation and translation assistance, field trips, Chinese movies, games, blood pressure testing, festive celebrations and parties, video and literature library and educational seminars. The existence and services of Wollaston Senior Center provide seniors with a consistent and welcoming place to turn to for their services and needs.”[1]

The elders that attended the outreach presentation were attentive and engaged. They signaled that they were familiar with the subject matter by their own experiences or the experiences of friends in similar situations. At the conclusion of the presentation, there were several questions about seeking assistance and what may be considered elder abuse (such as a lack of respect). In particular, there were several elders with concerns about racism in public housing and assisted living facilities including accounts of other residents yelling and berating Chinese elders in particular, and instances of neglect of Chinese elders by caretakers at assisted living facilities. These anecdotes reveal another form of abuse that these elders are vulnerable to, as fear of retaliation and language barriers can make it difficult for Chinese elders to speak up.

The difficulties these elders face highlight the importance of programs such as the Asian Outreach Unit and Elder Abuse Prevention Project at Greater Boston Legal Services, as well as the Wollaston Senior Center. Elder abuse prevention outreaches and multidisciplinary teams address barriers that immigrants and minorities face through engagement with the local community and creating culturally appropriate educational resources, improving access to healthcare, and legal advocacy.  In addition to these resources, Chinese elders can also reach out to Local Adult Protective Services units (https://www.mass.gov/report-elder-abuse) and The Massachusetts Elder Abuse Hotline (800-922-2275).

[1] http://www.wlchurch.org/community/aasa.asp

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