July 28, 2020
While all seniors face issues, some groups have unique challenges. Seniors who are immigrants are adversely affected by isolation, access to resources, and concerns about their status in the United States. Their “social convoy,” a term which refers to the group of close friends and family that help people navigate through life, is often broken when they come to the United States. Individuals form social convoys when they are young, but they remain important through older adulthood. Immigrants are often forced to leave behind these social convoys, saying goodbye to the neighbors, friends, and family that made up this vital support system. The loss of this support system exacerbates the loneliness and isolation that often affects seniors.
Furthering this isolation, many immigrants who come into the United States when they are older, often to reunite with adult children, do not speak English and are dependent on their children for most things. This limitation makes reaching out and trying to expand their social convoy all the more difficult and increases their social isolation. This issue is particularly problematic as social isolation among seniors is associated with other physical health risks, and immigrant seniors are more affected by social isolation than others.
Immigrant seniors are also limited in the resources that they can access. They are often not eligible for Social Security Disability (SSI), Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, and more. Furthermore, the Trump administration has recently expanded the public charge test for immigrants seeking visas or green cards, whether they are currently in the United States and applying for a change of status or are outside of the United States and trying to enter. The public charge test looks at whether a person will be able to take care of themselves and therefore eligible for a visa or green card. This recent expansion of the public charge test prevents immigrants who have received certain benefits, such as SSI, or those who might be likely to receive them in the future, from obtaining a green card or visa.
Given the issues facing immigrant seniors, community support is vital. Start Here, a St. Louis Area Resource Directory, has information and resources for immigrants in our area.
For more immigrant seniors resources, please visit our special groups of seniors resource page.
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