As America grows older and more diverse, people ages 50+ from all cultural backgrounds represent a vast resource for communities. Many are seeking opportunities to contribute to their families and neighborhoods, remain connected to others, and leave a legacy for future generations. Although human service practitioners and researchers are beginning to recognize the benefits of connection and contribution, both for individuals 50+ and for the larger community, scant attention is paid to the characteristics of civic engagement among foreign-born elders. In fact, it is suggested that immigrant elders are minimally engaged in their communities. Research conducted on immigrant civic participation has focused primarily on citizenship efforts, not the critical roles that older adults play or could play in their communities.
The engagement of immigrant elders in civic activities is particularly important for both the elders themselves and the communities in which they live. Research suggests that involvement in productive activity and close social ties are linked to successful aging (Rowe & Kahn, 1998). For many immigrant elders, however, a major discrepancy exists between the traditional roles they played in their homelands and those that are available in the United States. Older immigrants are too often viewed only as clients to be served rather than as leaders who can guide their communities and transmit cultural values and traditions. Though many express the desire to fulfill their responsibilities as contributing community members, the opportunities to do so within formal organizations are limited.
The Goals of this Initiative
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CSU Fullerton, Fullerton, CA.