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January 20, 2011

Chinese Seniors in U.S. Fall Victim to Elder Abuse (Part I)

Chinese Seniors in U.S. Fall Victim to Elder Abuse (Part I)
BY Rong Xiaoqing
Ie Contributor
New America Media
www.newamericamedia.org


Although she immigrated to the United States from Canton, China 13 years ago, Cai E. Yu still remembers the meaning of Sept. 9 on the lunar calendar.
The day is the traditional Double Nines Festival, which is also legally designated as the Seniors’ Festival in mainland China and Taiwan because the digit “9” is associated with longevity in the Chinese culture. Young people are supposed to show particular reverence to elders on this day.
But Yu, 70, is not expecting any kind gestures from her only daughter, who is now 50. Since Yu arrived in the United States on a green card sponsored by her daughter, the daughter has been living with Yu in her rent-controlled apartment in New York’s Chinatown.
However, their relationship started to go sour two years ago, when Yu tried to stop her daughter from idling around day after day with a semi live-in boyfriend, whom Yu thought was a bad influence.
“Why Don’t You Die?”
Since then, her daughter has said things like: “Why don’t you die now?” And, “Why don’t you just go to live in the hospital?” She has also withdrawn money from her mother’s bank account without authorization. She even threw the mother’s belongings out of the apartment in an attempt to force her out.
Yu is among the up to 5 million elders victimized by financial abuse in the United States, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), a program of the U.S. Administration on Aging. As many as 2 million seniors are mistreated by family members or others they depend on for protection. But in the Chinese and other Asian communities, family shame and secrecy make exact numbers difficult to measure.
“Sometimes, when they [her daughter and boyfriend] are at home, I don’t dare to go to bed. I am afraid they’d kill me when I fall asleep,” said Yu, who got a court restraining order against her daughter with the help of a community-based organization.
Reflecting the rapid national growth of Asian elders, the population of seniors 60 or older is 93,000 and will more than double in 10 years. This will be the fastest growth among all racial groups in New York, according to the City Council. And the population growth is likely to be accompanied by a rise in abuse cases such as Yu’s.
Familial piety is so highly valued in the Asian culture, contributing to the image of Asian Americans as a model minority, that many people, including Asian Americans, don’t realize that senior abuse exists in this community.
“The more a culture emphasizes a certain value, the harder for people from this cultural background to openly talk about behaviors that go against the value,” said Peter Cheng, executive director of Indochina Sino-American Community Center, which operates the only senior protection program in the Chinese community in New York.
Cheng sensed something wrong two years ago when one of the elderly members of his organization asked social workers there to help him fill out an application for government housing.
He remembered that the man had purchased a co-op apartment several years earlier, and the center had even hosted a celebratory party for him. “I was very curious why he needed government housing, so I asked.”
Cheng recalled, “He told me he spent his whole life savings to buy the co-op apartment in his son’s name, [that he] only wanted to get the son a good life. But now his son doesn’t want to live with him, and he was evicted.”

Abridged
SOURCE:      The IE Examiner
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