Immigrant Baby Boomers: unique lives in Boston
Boston’s population is getting older. As we refer to baby boomers, who were born after World War II, roughly from the 1940s to 1960s, are approaching their seventies and reinventing what it means to be a “senior citizen.”
According to the U.S. census in 2010, more than 14% of Boston’s residents were above 60 years, representing 88,000 older residents living in Boston. Of the total population, around 10% of the whole population are above 65 years old, including U.S. and foreign born citizens and non-citizens.
However, immigrants and neutralized citizens, are great contributors in U.S.’s increasing population. In 2015, there are 227,130 Boston residents who speak a language other than English; among which, Spanish, Indo-European and Asian languages have the largest groups of speakers in Boston. However, seniors above 65 years have the lowest rate of English proficiency among other age groups, not surprisingly, due to their ages.
Siu Ching Tsang, a 74-year-old Chinese immigrant, who came to the U.S. about 20 years ago with his son, could still not speaking great English, even though he has already became a U.S. citizen back in the early 2000s. “I speak Cantonese mostly at home and in Chinatown, and it’s enough,” said Tsang, who lives in Chinatown with his wife.
Seniors like Tsang in Asian community have statistically lowest English proficiency regardless how long they have been living in the U.S., as a result, most of them speak their native languages at home and around neighborhood. For senior immigrants who don’t have stable income and children live together, although they can still live perfectly in the U.S., they are distanced from the mainstream society. As a group of people who are physically weaker and culturally isolated, they need more attention from the government in providing them with a culturally friendly environment to spend their older ages.
Boston as a multicultural and responsible city, has already established quite a few senior programs for immigrant seniors residents in particular, including senior housing with easy language and culture accessibilities. Hong Lok House, located at Essex street, is one of the senior houses that are funded by the city and managed by Greater Boston Chinese Golden Age Center.
“I am on the waitlist of Hong Lok House. Me and my wife would like to stay here as we are getting older — they have staff who can speak Cantonese and English that we can turn for help,” said Tsang.