No One To Talk To

August 31st, 2009

There’s a fairly heartbreaking story by Patricia Leigh Brown in today’s New York Times about how the ethnic elderly are among the most isolated people in America. They’re America’s fastest-growing immigrant group (in California one in nearly three seniors is foreign born), yet 70% of older immigrants speak little or no English, and most don’t drive. “They come anticipating a great deal of family togetherness,” says a professor of sociology at UC Irvine, “but American society isn’t organized in a way that responds to their cultural expectations.” The story ends with the example¬† of an 84 year-old Indian grandmother who shares a room with her 12 year-old grandson in Fremont, Ca. (“improbably surrounded by Iron Man and Incredible Hulk posters”), who’s spending a lot of time with her eyes cast downwards at her folded hands. Interestingly, the one social group that gets written about is all-male–as we’ve discussed before, older men typically don’t form the social networks women do, which makes aging harder for them–and takes the form of Indian men getting together five days a week at the mall for something called the 100 Years Living Club. Sounds like the basis of the next ¬†Mira Nair movie, no?