Immigrant Seniors Fear Loss of Haven

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October 28, 2011; Source: Asian Journal | Isolation is a reality many elderly Americans face. Nonprofit programs that coax older individuals out of their solitude and provide a venue for socializing and physical activity are important for the well-being of our elders.  This is particularly the case for older immigrants who count on these services to be among others who share their native language and culture.

Organizations that take care of senior citizens, like many other human service organizations nationwide, are hit hard by shrinking government budgets and plateaued private giving. One such provider is the Silver Lake Adult Day Health Care Center in downtown Los Angeles which faces a precarious future as funding for California’s Adult Health Care Center program ends December 1.

The center, located in Historic Filipinotown, caters to more than 100 elderly women and men, most of whom are Filipino immigrants who come to enjoy their peers, benefit from therapeutic services, and be taken care of by staff members who are familiar with their cultural norms and values.

The idea of losing their second home has distressed  Silver Lake’s clients.

“What will happen to me?” Nanay (Mother) Seling, an octogenarian with mild dementia, told Asian Journal. “All my friends are here. I’m sad that I might not see them again … I can’t handle it. I will die.”

“We have been telling our patients of the possible situation and that we are here to support and help them,” said Mila Anguluan-Coger, Silver Lake ADHC program director. Her assurances are cold comfort for the seniors however, as state workers come and ask clients to fill out forms for pending transfer to other programs.

The elderly fear the loneliness that will come from the loss of their haven.

“What shall we become if the center closes? Of course, I will be left at home. Alone.” Bibiana Viernes, a  legally blind 86 year old, said. Viernes has been a center regular for eight years. She had insisted on going to Silver Lake even after her family moved away from Los Angeles.

“I live with my son and his wife, who work to earn for their livelihood…Being blind what will I do? Of course, I’ll do my best to survive but then I become sad, lonely and depressed. And I will be frightened. Any single sound, I will be frightened very fast. What if there is a natural disaster like a fire, earthquake or strong winds? Imagine what will I do? I will panic and die at that instance. My co-seniors are the same in that situation.”– Erwin de Leon