2016-01-27 / Front Page

Selfhelp Addresses Needs Of Older Chinese Immigrants

The growing number and needs of elder Chinese immigrants living in Queens were detailed at a January 13 press conference organized by Selfhelp Community Services, and prominent members of the Chinese community.  Selfhelp serves more than 5,000 Chinese elders among its 20,000 clients. The conference was held at Selfhelp’s newest building, 137-39 45th Avenue, Flushing and included a performance of a Chinese New Year’s dance, with dancers in traditional, colorful attire and a tour of affordable senior housing.
Speakers at the press conference described the many Selfhelp services designed specifically for Chinese immigrant elders, and the specific forms of community involvement that best meet the needs of the growing number of elders requesting assistance.
The formation of the Selfhelp Chinese Advisory Council was also announced.  The council is composed of prominent members of the Chinese-American community who will play an important role in advising and identifying resources to address the critical needs of Chinese elders.
New initiatives were announced at the press conference. These include a Chinese platform for Selfhelp’s nationally-acclaimed Virtual Senior Center (VSC) and the formation of YoungGen, an intergenerational program designed to provide opportunities for the younger Chinese generation to learn about their elders and culture, as well as to give back to the community.
A little-known connection between Selfhelp and its Chinese clients was also revealed. Selfhelp was founded in 1936 to help waves of émigrés fleeing from Nazi persecution to find new lives in America.  During the Holocaust, over 25,000 European Jewish refugees were saved because China opened its doors, permitting them to settle in Shanghai when many other countries were restricting immigration.  Among Selfhelp’s clients are Holocaust survivors who lived in the Shanghai ghetto, as well as Chinese immigrants who lived in Shanghai during WWII.  This historical fact serves to strengthen the bond between these two populations that receive services from Selfhelp.
“We are pleased to announce the launch of the Selfhelp Chinese Advisory Council,” said Tai Wang, Chair of the newly formed Chinese Advisory Council.  “We will work to facilitate access to services – including housing, entitlements, home care, classes and more – for our Chinese elders who have done so much for so many over their lifetimes,” she added.  “Changing times require new commitments.  We are proud to be part of this effort.”
According to a 2013 New York City Department of City Planning report, the Chinese population of New York City is 350,200, second only to immigrants from the Dominican Republic.  If the current rate of Chinese immigration continues, it will become the largest immigrant group in New York in the next few years.
“This is a critical time as the number of Chinese elderly immigrants outpaces current community resources,” said Stuart C. Kaplan, CEO, Selfhelp Community Services.  “This mandates keen awareness of their changing needs, the development of new resources to meet and fund services and the coordination of help through our dedicated elected officials, ease of access to programs and added help from volunteers.  It is our honor and responsibility to take part in this initiative.”
Councilman Peter Koo stated, “Our senior citizens are among New York’s most vulnerable populations, and we must do everything in our power to make sure they are taken care of. An increasing number of senior citizens are new immigrants with unique needs and concerns, and Selfhelp’s Chinese Advisory Council will go a long way toward meeting these needs with efficiency and compassion.”
Councilwoman Margaret Chin added, “I am happy to join elder advocates, community members and elected officials to draw attention to the urgent needs of our city’s growing senior population. As we approach another joyous Lunar New Year, I would especially like to celebrate Selfhelp Community Services’ commitment to the health and well-being of thousands of Chinese seniors with the creation of its new Chinese Advisory Council. Only by working together can we build a city where all of our seniors are able to age with dignity in the neighborhoods they helped build.”
Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) remarked that “Selfhelp’s new Chinese Advisory Council will go a long way towards ensuring they meet the needs of the senior Chinese community. I applaud them for recognizing the need to reach out to every cultural population to ensure their services reach as many people as possible.”
Congresswoman Grace Meng said “I commend Selfhelp Community Services for establishing this important advisory council. It is critical that we meet the growing needs of our seniors and enhance the services they require. I look forward to continuing to work with Selfhelp to achieve that, and I applaud all their work to assist and improve the lives of older individuals.”
State Senator Tony Avella noted, “I congratulate Selfhelp on their newly established Chinese Advisory Council. Selfhelp has provided invaluable services to at-risk communities through their information resources. With the creation of a Chinese platform for their Virtual Senior center, these resources will reach even more people than before, ensuring that the elderly have access to the help they need, regardless of any language barriers. I thank Selfhelp for recognizing the need for this outreach and I look forward to seeing the results.”  
State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky commented, “We live in a borough and a city filled with many cultures, languages and traditions. It is part of what makes New York so great. In order to reflect our diversity, we must provide culturally sensitive services. Selfhelp has a history of assisting people of diverse backgrounds, stretching back to Holocaust victims. I applaud Selfhelp for working to enhance their services to better address the needs of older Chinese immigrants. The Chinese Advisory Council is a great first step in helping the more than 5,000 Chinese seniors Selfhelp works with every day.”
Assemblywoman Nily Rozic remarked, “I applaud Selfhelp for creating the Chinese Advisory Council. Older Chinese immigrants are some of the city’s most vulnerable New Yorkers, so it is crucial for advocates and organizations to support efforts that highlight and address the needs of this unique population.”
Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein said, “I congratulate Selfhelp on the creation of their new Chinese Advisory Council to address the growing needs of older Chinese immigrants. I look forward to working with Selfhelp to assist the elderly Chinese population in Northeast Queens.”
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz observed, “Selfhelp Community Services provides vital support to thousands of elders through its network of senior centers, affordable housing and individualized case management services. The formation of the Selfhelp Chinese Advisory Council will only serve to enhance these services.”
Councilman Daniel Dromm said “It is vitally important that we provide culturally competent services to our immigrant seniors. As a Council Member representing one of the largest Asian communities in the city, I applaud Selfhelp Community Services for establishing the Chinese Advisory Council which will ensure that the needs of older Chinese residents are met.  I will continue to support Selfhelp Community Services as they implement and expand this worthy program.”
Of the 20,000 clients served by Selfhelp, 25 percent are Asian, primarily Chinese.  The majority are low-income seniors who emigrated from China.  Of the more than 5,000 Asian clients Selfhelp serves, 704 live in Selfhelp’s affordable apartment buildings, where they may receive services, as needed, such as subsidized home care, housekeeping and case management to enable them to live independently.  More than 4,200 Asian clients attend one of Selfhelp’s five state-of-the-art senior centers, where they participate in activities such as computer training, health and wellness activities, English as a Second Language, citizenship classes, exercise and recreation, and Chinese cultural activities including calligraphy, dance, literature and opera.
Trips are arranged to places of interest as well.  Selfhelp also serves homebound Chinese elders through its case management programs.
Culturally competent social workers, instructors and senior center directors enable this population to access services in the community and to assist in making their transition to America as seamless as possible.  100 clients are enrolled solely in Selfhelp’s case management programs, where they receive services such as home delivered meals, assistance with accessing entitlements, referrals to other services they may require and an overall helping hand that is always available.  
“More than 4,000 Asians attend one of Selfhelp’s state-of-the-art senior centers in this neighborhood,” said Jane Qui, PhD, LMSW, Selfhelp’s Innovative Senior Center Program Director.  “Our centers offer everything from health and wellness programs, to citizenship classes, to professional assistance in accessing services – whatever is necessary to make their transition to America as seamless as possible.  The enthusiasm and resources of the Selfhelp Chinese Advisory Council will enable us to even better meet the needs of our elderly – with their happiness, health and dignity at heart.”
Founding members of Selfhelp’s Chinese Advisory Council include: Tai Wang, Chair; Angela Guangyang An; Amy Mak Chan; Teresa Chan; Joanne Chao; Yali Li; Jerry Lo; Michael Yi Shen; Chloe Bona Sun; Vincent Yuancong Wang.
For more information about Selfhelp’s services please call 718-559-4400.
For more information about the Chinese Advisory Council please call 516-835-2001.
Selfhelp is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to maintaining the independence and dignity of seniors and at-risk populations through a spectrum of housing, home health care and social services and will lead in applying new methods and technologies to address changing needs of the community. Selfhelp will continue to serve as the “last surviving relative” to its historic constituency, victims of Nazi persecution.  Selfhelp oversees nine affordable residential complexes, seven Nazi Victim Services programs, five senior centers, four NORCs, four case management programs and a legal guardianship program – which are located in Manhattan and the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island.           

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