Respecting Your Elders in the Asian Community

Ray Hom

Asian cultures, senior citizens are highly respected and even celebrated. Regardless of where Asians live globally, these family values and traditions are instilled and handed down from generation to generation. However, being a first generation Asian American, I have seen how it’s become harder and harder to hand down traditions and culture while living in western society.

As many baby boomers are reaching their retirement years, many in the Asian community have the added responsibilities of taking care of their aging parents and elders. It is not uncommon for Asian families to have several generations living under one roof.

While obligation is one of the driving factors to care and show dignity toward elderly, the Chinese culture has always stressed respect toward elders and practices of honor and kindness toward seniors is a normal part of life in China. Respecting the elderly is part of the actual law in China. In fact, elderly parents in China and Singapore can sue their grown children for both emotional and financial support.

The Japanese culture values the elderly as well. Appreciation for elders is ingrained in families and their children, making Japan one of the kindest places in the world for seniors.

Happiness and longevity, well into the latter part of life in Japan, have been attributed to strong community bonds, family and healthy living which includes plenty of exercise and healthy, low-fat diets. Honoring tradition to care for and respect family members, especially seniors, doesn’t hurt. Japan has a national paid holiday called “Respect for the Aged Day” to show appreciation for seniors, and there’s a “noelderly-left-behind” attitude to celebrate everyone.

The Vietnamese truly value the “respect your elders” sentiment. In fact, elders are considered the carriers of knowledge, tradition and wisdom in the Vietnamese culture. Elderly grandparents live with their families for support and care, and they contribute to the household by preparing meals and caring for grand-kids. Elders are considered the head of the family and their advice is valued to the point where they are the decision makers in the household. In Vietnam, being old is considered an asset, not a liability; a shift of perspective that helps make a long life harmonious in this culture.

It is good to know that resources are available to assist Asian families that have elderly relatives living in Cleveland. Families don’t necessarily have to live in AsiaTown to benefit from various program organizations. It is with, this in mind that I want to create awareness for the Cleveland Chinese Senior Citizens Association (CCSCA). The CCSCA is a nonprofit organization that promotes and improves the wellbeing, health and social welfare of Asian American seniors. CCSCA provides programs for the enrichment of the quality of life for all Asian American seniors in the Cleveland Area. CCSCA falls under Title III of the Older Americans Act which provides funding for support services, nutrition services, and family caregiver support. CCSC A continues looking for services expansions to transportation, home delivered meals and family caregiver support.

Current programs include a lunch meal program for a $1 minimum donation per meal. The lunch program provides nutritious meals for seniors in a warm and welcoming group setting to improve seniors’ health and social life. All seniors age 60+ along with their spouses are welcome. There is always a great selection of quality and culturally enhanced meals, consisting of a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, vegetables, fruit, and milk to meet 1/3 of the daily intake for seniors. The menu is approved by the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging (WRAAA) dietitian to meet seniors’ nutrition standards.

The lunch program is made possible by WRAAA’s Nutrition Services (III C). The nutrition program provides meals and socialization to older adults in congregate settings such as senior centers. The purpose of the program is to reduce hunger and food insecurity promotes socialization and a nutritious diet. Lunch is provided every weekday at Asian Evergreen Apartment Building in Cleveland.

Another program provides free multi- lingual language interpretation services (Title III B), such as interpretation between seniors and a service coordinator regarding retirement and social benefits. For example, ensuring seniors know when Medicare open enrollment begins as well as the deadline to register/file for insurance. If seniors need assistance with understanding the different Medicare plans, a service coordinator able to assist.

For Asian families that are caring for elderly parents or if you are a senior citizen living in AsiaTown, consider signing up to become a member to enjoy the benefits. Aside from the program benefits, it’s a great way to meet other seniors in the Asian community. Going forward, the goal is to create additional programs for seniors as needed.

In order to enjoy the benefits, you must sign up to become a CCSCA member by calling 216.881.6999 to apply and confirm eligibility, although, most Asian seniors aged 60 and older are eligible to become members. The enrollment period has begun for the new year. In addition, if you are interested in volunteering with CCSCA, please call 216.881.6999. More volunteers will allow for the expansion of the services mentioned above.

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