Immigrant Seniors Heading to Queens

Immigrant seniors chat in Chinatown's Columbus Park  as the sun goes behind the highrises on the west side. (Photo by Moriza, Flickr Creative Commons Licence)

Immigrant seniors have been leaving Chinatown and its Columbus Park for Flushing where rents are more affordable and services are available in their own language. The shift has helped make Flushing the neighborhood with the most immigrant seniors in the city. (Photo by Moriza, Creative Commons license)

Queens is home to the highest number of immigrant seniors, according to a new report by the Center for an Urban Future, a think tank. The borough has 162,000 foreign-born seniors, says The Queens Courier in an article about the report.

Among the neighborhoods with the most immigrant seniors, Flushing tops the list with more than 25,000. The report defines “immigrant seniors” or “older immigrants” as people age 65 and older who were born in a country other than the U.S. and reside in the States, regardless of immigration status.

“Immigrants are critical to Queens,” said Jonathan Bowles, executive director of the New York-based think tank.

“They’ve driven a lot of the economic growth in the borough,” he said. “They make up almost half of the population in Queens. It’s important that they can grow old in the city.”

Bowles said the migration of seniors to Flushing, which started in the 1970s, continues today. Most come from Manhattan’s Chinatown where increasing rents push them out. According to the report, over 8,000 seniors settled in Flushing only during the last decade.

“They want to live in Flushing because it’s more convenient for them in terms of language barriers,” said Kathy Liu, program director for the Flushing YMCA’s New Americans Welcome Center. “It’s one of the neighborhoods which allow immigrants to go to different agencies to help them in their language.”

The center serves non-English speakers and offers free adult literacy, citizenship preparation, job readiness and computer classes. Liu said natives of China, Korea and even France use the free services at the Flushing location. The Flushing branch of the Queens Library also offers similar services. According to Joanne King, a spokeswoman for the library, it is the busiest branch in the state.

But such services might have limited impact on the lives of immigrant seniors. Many live in poverty and are less likely to receive government benefits. Flushing, the report says, has the highest concentration of poor seniors. The study found that more than half of all the Korean seniors in the city living below the federal poverty line are based in Flushing.

“Many don’t qualify for retirement or housing benefits,” Liu said. “With rent so high in this area, they find it very difficult to live with the savings they brought from their own country.”

The Rockaways, according to the report, is home to the second largest group of poor immigrant seniors, 3,154 people.

“Immigrant adults have all of those traditional challenges, but then they have additional ones because of language barriers or a lack of familiarity with programs and services that are available,” Bowles said. “I don’t see this as a problem necessarily, but as a challenge that New York City policy makers have to plan for.”

One Comment

  1. disqus_DQwCeasIJP says:

    They should live in poverty….why should my tax dollars have to pay for some old ass immigrant who probably hasn’t paid a damn dime in taxes to the usa govt ever in their entire lives? They should go back to their original countries!!

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