Senior refugees isolated
If retirement seems like a life-changing prospect, imagine moving to another country in your senior years and learning a new language and culture.
This is the daunting reality for many older immigrants in Red Deer, said Jan Underwood, community educator for CARE (Central Alberta Refugee Effort).
She noted a lot of seniors from overseas are being sponsored by their adult children to join them in Canada.
Once they arrive, these extended family members from Central America, Asia and Eastern Europe often remain at home to babysit their grandchildren.
“They don’t speak any English and they don’t get to (learn) it at home, so they become isolated,” said Underwood.
CARE is currently reassessing programs that provide socialization and integration opportunities for those 50 and up. Focus groups were held recently to find out what kind of activities older immigrants would appreciate — and one desire has been made clear.
Ruby Adams, who co-ordinates several programs for CARE, said many new Albertans with varying language skills have expressed a willingness to do volunteer hands-on work for Red Deer companies or non-profits.
“They feel this would create opportunities to mingle and also give something back to the community.”
Area organizations willing to make volunteer opportunities available for senior immigrants are asked to call CARE. Adams also hopes to hear from more older newcomers.
“A lot of people don’t realize there are programs out there,” said Underwood, who noted CARE has offered clients chances to learn more about the Red Deer area with organized excursions to the museum, public library, Sylvan Lake, the Lacombe corn maze and other destinations.
While communication is often a challenge, people of any age will improve their language skills with more social interaction, said Adams, who hopes more new immigrants will take advantage of free programs that are being enhancing to boost participation.
CARE also has regular programming for male and female immigrants of mixed ages, including English as a second language classes and conversation circles. Many feature educational aspects, such as tours of the supermarket, information on nutrition and other issues.
For more information, please call 403-346-8818.