As crimes against the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community increase nationwide, the elderly stay most susceptible to violence. As Asian American elders are increasingly targeted, they are not only less likely to report incidents, but less likely to receive emotional support, as well. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, Asian American elders experience significantly lower life satisfaction and receive less emotional support than their generational peers of other races.
Published in January, the data comes from the 2018 California Health Interview Survey, the largest state health survey in the U.S., NBC News reported. The survey consisted of a sample size of nearly 8,200 individuals, all aged 65 years and older, including people of Chinese, Korean, Filipino, and Vietnamese descent. South Asians were not included in the analysis, as their sample size in the study was too small.
“We know it’s a common misconception that Asians are doing better than other racial groups,” Riti Shimkhada, the study’s lead researcher and a senior research scientist at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, told NBC News. “There’s much that we don’t know about our older adults, and these results show they aren’t doing as well as people may perceive.”
Compared to 80% of respondents from other races and ethnicities, only 54% of Asian American older adults surveyed said they were satisfied with their lives, Similarly, 56% of Asian American elders reported usually or always receiving needed social and emotional support compared to 80% of people of other groups. Within the AAPI community, Korean elders reported the lowest number at 40%.
Social and cultural factors were both contributed as factors to why Asian Americans may experience less satisfaction, DJ Ida, executive director of the National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association, said.
“In general, mental health needs increase as people get older,” Ida told NBC News. She noted that physical and emotional exhaustion, as well “the sense of anxiety around the meaning of life,” all grow with age. “But our health care facilities are not adequate for the needs of the Asian community.”
Language is one of the biggest deterrents to access to health care and mental health services for Asian American elders. Many mental health providers lack the resources to meet the language needs of older Asian Americans. According to the Report of the Asia Pacific National Center on Aging, more than half of elderly Asian Americans have limited English proficiency.
While the survey was taken prior to the pandemic, it sheds light on the increasing issues AAPI community members face. The numbers are expected to be higher as the pandemic has increased social isolation and loneliness among older adults.
According to NBC News, a new report by the Asian American Federation found that 75% of elderly Asian New Yorkers are afraid to leave their homes as a result of anti-Asian violence. Data has found that women and elderly community members are the most vulnerable targets. Many of them are suffering in silence. As a result, advocates are working on programs to help create awareness and access to resources.
“It’s an area where policy could help,” Shimkhada said, “in training providers to identify strain or loneliness in older adults and provide resources for them.”
While xenophobia against the AAPI community is not a new phenomenon, the rate at which these crimes are increasing is more alarming with every data report released. Hate crime data from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino found that hate crimes against Asian Americans surged in 2020 in at least 15 cities, Daily Kos reported. As the cities were further reviewed, a new report indicated that crimes against Asian Americans rose by 169% when comparing the first quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021.
Individuals should not have to fear leaving their homes. More must be done to protect the vulnerable and address the concerns of elderly community members.
Now more than ever, the Asian American community needs our support. We need to take action whether it be checking in on our family and friends, spreading awareness of COVID-19 misconceptions, or contacting members of Congress to do more against anti-Asian hate. Check out this guide on resources and ways to support the AAPI community and our Asian friends.