Columbus Park in the heart of historic Chinatown functions as an informal senior center not just for people living in the neighborhood, but those who have moved away and are stopping by to chat, play cards or Xiàngqí, Chinese chess. CPC's Chinatown Senior Citizens Center across Mulberry Street offers free meals and programs, but while the weather allows, the park will be buzzing with activity and the sounds of competing opera groups.
Fay Chew Matsuda works with seniors at Hamilton-Madison House, another neighborhood program that serves many first generation Chinese immigrants who came to the U.S. as working adults and who have aged in place. Other elders might have arrived more recently through family reunification: “finally, because it took so long to actually ‘stand in line’ so to speak and get over here. Working families love to have their grandparents here so they can help take care of children. But it has created some problems, too, because what happens when those little grandchildren grow up? We’ve gotten to hear about situations where people feel like they were useful at a certain point, and then when the grandkids no longer needed them, feeling exploited. We’re finding that elder abuse is something that we have to be very aware of in the community as well, whether it’s financial, emotional, possibly physical, too. So I think there’ll always be a need for people to be able to find services in their own language, that they feel comfortable with, and where the meals are culturally appropriate.”