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Direct Link To This Post Topic: Seniors Need More Support
    Posted: Jun/16/2011 at 7:33am

Immigrant seniors need more support, expert says

Older immigrants who come to Canada expecting freedom and a happy reunion with offspring often end up isolated and abused, a Guelph audience heard Wednesday morning.

In many cases, older immigrants base their decision to come here on glowing reviews from relatives and government recruiters.

Later, “they say they did not make informed decisions, and this is humiliating for them,” Ryerson University sociologist Kenise Murphy Kilbride told about 100 people gathered at the Cutten Club for a talk marking World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

Kilbride shared comments from focus groups consulted in a two-year study she recently completed of immigrant seniors in Ontario.

“They want proper information in their hands abroad,” she said, including warnings about the cold, unemployment and other potential downsides to life in Canada.

“They say, ‘Why can’t you do that? That’s simply being honest.’ ”

Kilbride said new immigrant seniors should get a settlement case worker for their first year in Canada and an immigration handbook containing useful information in their mother tongue.

She said national housing and child care programs would help older new immigrants, who are too often confined in cramped homes and forced to give free child care after entrusting their savings to their cash-strapped sponsors.

The government should also pay for more employment and bridging programs that find work for skilled immigrant seniors, many of whom cannot speak English, Kilbride said.

“The feeling is that no matter where they apply, there will be a younger, more attractive candidate,” she said. “If we waste all that talent, you know, more shame on us.”

The message resonated with some social service providers and community volunteers in the audience.

“I’m a senior too, so I relate on the ageism,” said Pat Cathers, a volunteer with an immigrant women’s group that meets for coffee in Guelph each week. She confirmed “the need of families that come here to really know what to expect.”

Rodrigo Goller, a project specialist with the Guelph-Wellington Local Immigration Partnership, which is currently implementing mentorship, language and settlement programs for local immigrants, said he wasn’t aware of “the extent to which seniors are marginalized.”

Goller’s own two Peruvian grandmothers moved to Canada with the intention of staying but left after only three months and one year, respectively.

“They appreciated all the conveniences of Canada, but they were not able to connect to their ethnic communities and develop friendships,” he said. “So they went back. It was too much for them as seniors.”

He acknowledged many elderly immigrants do not have the luxury of returning home after they move here.

The root causes of elder abuse are often poverty and fatigue, the audience heard, but generational differences also play a part.

“There’s frequently a clash of expectations on the part of the seniors, and this can result in people screaming at each other, living very unhappy lives or simply sitting in silence, day after day,” Kilbride said.

“There was one pair of grandparents that was thrown out of their house because the grandson had an earring, and that was anathema.”

At the end of her speech, Kilbride addressed political backlash against family-class immigration, which is currently being scaled back from 16,000 immigrants last year to 11,000 in 2012.

“Why would we bring in a class of people that is by definition dependent?” Kilbride said, illustrating the logic of politicians and citizens who view elderly immigrants as a drain on the economy.

To the contrary, she said, immigrant seniors offer plenty of “payback” in the form of volunteerism, child care and skilled labour.

The morning event was hosted by Project Wisdom, a federal initiative raising awareness about cultural factors in elder abuse.

Reprinted with permission from the Guelph Mercury.

(Courtesy of
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