NATIONAL INDO-AMERICAN ASSOCIATION FOR SENIOR CITIZENS Inc.

Web site: www.niaasc.org                  E-mail: niaasc@aol.com

 

                                                                                                                        November 22, 2000

 

REPORT OF THE ‘CONFERENCE ON SENIORS’ held NOVEMBER 18, 2000

 

 The National Indo-American Association for Senior Citizens (NIAASC) held its third interactive conference on November 18, 2000 at the Indian-American Kerala Center in Elmont, Long Island. The conference focused on the following three issues:

           

            Morning Session: ‘In-Family Conflicts and Compromises Faced by Immigrant Seniors’

                Noon Session: ‘Process of Developing a Community-based Senior Citizen Program’

                Afternoon Session: ‘Long Term Care and Medicaid’

 

MORNING SESSION:

 

The morning session touched the human and emotional component of elderly Indians: story after story related by the eminent speakers and panelists:

               

            “The model minority which suffers in silence: An old woman who has a serious illness has to depend on her son for treatment. She was living in India ten years ago: ‘Mom come and live     with us in America where everything is in plenty and we need you’. How could she refuse? Old people need to be needed. She accepted the invitation. Son, Jitendra, an engineer had two young children. Grandma enjoyed taking care of them. Daughter-in-law Sejal was finishing her internal medicine residency. Five years later the children are in school, Sejal has full time job, and grandmother has become a prisoner of a golden cage. She had developed a kidney disease. She has to spend three days a week at the dialysis center. Fortunately she was eligible for Medicare and Social Security benefits. The children keep the money. Provide her with food & clothing. She has              not gone to India for more than five years. ‘My daughter-in-law does not want me to cook for my son the delicious Indian dishes he used to enjoy when single. Now I am a burden on them’. She had tears in her eyes almost saying ‘Why am I alive’”?

 

Dr. Jyotsna Kalavar, Assistant Professor and Program Director of the department of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State University in New Kensington, Pennsylvania has published a book: “The Asian India Elderly in America”, published by Garland Publishers 1998. She has recently studied old age homes in India and just came back from India after presenting a paper at the International Gerontology Conference. Old people prefer to live in Old Age Homes than with their children. Many old people have to pay money to their adult children to live with them. She described that we Indians have cultural notions of Ashramas, when in 50’s one should be in Vanprasthashram, and at age 75 one should be in Sanyasashram. As compared to Americans, our culture promotes inward thinking DHYAN, MANAN, contemplation, lack of desire for more clothes, cut down the needs , don’t involve in the pleasures of life. Focusing on the issue of problems faced by seniors, Dr. Kalavar underscored that the unique problems encountered depend on the region to which they immigrated and what age they came to America.

 

Dr. Nalini Juthani, a Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine spoke that there is a big difference in the two groups of seniors: one, who like us, came in late 60’s and early 70’s, have grown up in this country, are economically well off, have own transportation, have no problems with language and have developed a social network. And seniors who have come much later  face language problems; women still wear saris and chappals, they can’t leave home, and financially dependent on their children; and if living in suburbs can’t talk to American neighbors and almost feel like prisoners. The grandchildren who speak English may have nothing to do with them. Then there is ‘value gap’. Those who have lived in USA for many years have accepted and adapted to US values which could include the young ones expressing freely  (considered talking back and insulting our elders), young people wearing clothes and hair styles, coming home late, dancing, using alcohol and meat.

 

Dr. Juthani’s mother, Mrs. Sushila Ghevaria, a senior from India who was fluent in English, and in her 70’s spoke about plight of seniors. She said she was lucky to have daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. She has been an election inspector for about three years. “Living with sons can cause major problems with daughters-in-law. Son is a son till he takes his wife; daughter is a daughter all her life. But we the seniors have to change and adapt too to new culture”.

 

Dr. Satish Varma, a Clinical Assistant Professor, State University of New York, Brooklyn, moderator for the morning panel, said he had visited one senior in a long term care nursing home. He also spoke on telephone to another senior whose wife has become bed ridden after an accident. She is paralyzed below the neck. She gets nursing care at home. The spouses sit on the bed side or stay home all day to take care of their life partners. “That is our culture, that we cannot explain to Americans” .We need senior clubs and senior centers where people can meet each other, share the nostalgia, celebrate festivals. We need the network where people can visit the seniors who are sick.

 

NOON/LUNCHEON SESSION:

 

The noon session was a key note speech by Carol Hunt, Executive Director, Jamaica Services Program for Older Adults. She enumerated seven salient ingredients essential for developing a community-based senior citizen program. Essence of these features was that one has to have patience, resilience, openness, organizational capability, talk with people not talk to people. Her talk was an inspiration to those who represented a number of community-based organizations in the audience but still contemplating to initiate a senior citizen program.

 

Following the noon presentation by Carol Hunt, Mr. Purushottam Karra, President of Statewide Indo-American Senior Citizens Association in New Jersey gave an overview of the existing efforts in New Jersey and New York in addressing issues and problems faced by Indian seniors. There are seven different groups in New Jersey and one established Senior Citizen Center in Queens, New York which provide various services to Indian seniors.

 

AFTERNOON SESSION:

 

The afternoon session, moderated by Dr. Ashwin Pandya, NIAASC vice president, and practicing Psychiatrist by profession, was addressed by Kathleen Quinn, Supervisor of Long Term Care -Medicaid with the department of Social Services in Nassau County. She elaborated in details who was eligible for Medicaid and Long Term Care. The nuts and bolts of the complexities of the subject were explained in layman terminology. How one can secure financial support and what are the eligibility requirements; how one can pay Medicare premiums and deductibles if someone cannot afford that expense. She was generous to offer her assistance and provided a package for the benefit of participants with important telephone numbers in Nassau County.

 

Ms. Judith Jaross, Advisor for Long Term Care Insurance with the John Hancock Insurance and Financial Services, followed up by summarizing how commercial long term care insurance coverage fits into the health care planning of seniors who can afford private insurance. She spoke of the need of Long Term Care Insurance so one gets care without wiping out the fortunes.

 

NIAASC PUBLICATIONS:

 

Mr. Rajeshwar Prasad, NIAASC President and coordinator of the conference, announced that the folder given to participants includes, among other literature, some recent publications of NIAASC which will be of tremendous help to the seniors and their families, as well as to the Indian community leaders and organizations who wish to add a component of senior citizen program in their ongoing activities. The pamphlet “How to set up Senior Citizens Program” illustrates, step by step, guidelines for developing a senior citizens program in different settings and also outlines different phases of the program. The NIAASC also released its first Newsletter which in addition to the progress of NIAASC lists Area Agencies on Aging in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut States with their location and telephone numbers, provides the toll free number of Elder Locator to identify a service provider near one’s residence. It also provides important Web sites and telephone numbers of government and general agencies helpful to seniors. The newsletter also lists current Indian-American senior citizens programs in the metro area, as well as lists a number of agencies which provide direct services to people in areas of domestic abuse, drug abuse, shelter for battered women etc.  The newsletter also provides a background of its Board members.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

 

The conference discussion focused and recommended the following areas, NIAASC in collaboration with other groups should explore:

                Need for more small group discussions;

                Presentation of information at temples, other community places etc.;

                Need to develop a volunteer network;

                Professional Counseling for seniors who may have depression, anxiety, and family conflicts

                Develop a Hot Line where anonymous callers can inform and get help;

                Develop Senior Centers;

                Utilize existing senior centers.

 

ELECTION OF NIAASC OFFICERS:

 

Mr. Prasad also announced that NIAASC has constituted a Board of Directors and announced the names of 18 Board members. The Board of Directors elected the new officers who will take charge as of January 1, 2001. At the organizational meeting of the Board, chaired by Election Commissioner Dr. Ashvin Doshi, who is not a Board member, the following officers were elected for a two-year term:

                Rajeshwar Prasad, President; Dr. Ashwin Pandya and Mr. Ashok Satkalmi as Vice Presidents, Mr. Mathew Koshi as Secretary and Mr. Romesh Tewari as Treasurer.

 

In welcoming the participants to the Conference, Mr. E.M.Stephen, president and executive director of the Indian American Kerala Center, identified the services provided by the Center and he indicated that the NIAASC is an important part of the Center and a close working relationship between the two entities has helped both the groups considerably.

 

In proposing a vote of thanks Dr. Sushila Gidwani-Buschi, Vice President of NIAASC, expressed the gratitude on behalf of NIAASC to the sponsors who supported the conference financially and also recognized the groups which collaborated with NIAASC in making this conference a great success. She thanked those who made the food arrangement, and the Kerala Center for their help in providing all facilities for the conference. She thanked the participants, speakers, panelists and moderators for their valuable input in the conference proceedings.

 

Those who are interested in more information can browse the web site: www.niaasc.org or write to NIAASC at 1824 Fairfax Street, Elmont, NY 11003 or call at 516-358-2300.

 

For further information about this Report please contact Mr. Rajeshwar Prasad at (631) 698-0512.