Seniors often live an isolated existence in their golden years with infrequent visits from family and caretakers as their friends slowly disappear.
In mid-April, 91-year-old Yee-Shui Mar fell from the window of her apartment building in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Despite having living relatives, Mar lived alone in her apartment with help from a part-time home care assistant.
A witness to Mar’s fall said he assumed she fell as she was attempting to hang clothes from her window. The accident has brought to light the problems isolation causes for Chinatown’s aging population and seniors everywhere.
For members of the community like Soong-Kwong Yu, 91, living alone knowing that a simple accident could cause life-threatening injuries is scary:
“Many of my friends remained healthy in their 80s or 90s, until they died from a fall. I’m worried the same thing will happen to me; therefore, I try not to walk as much as I can. For example, I do not use the shared bathroom on this floor because it is too far away. I do it in my own room instead.”
Although Yu also has a home care assistant for 50 to 60 hours a month, Medi-Cal’s In Home Supportive Service program is being reduced yet again as a result of the state’s budget problems. In-home hours were cut in 2010-11 and are expected to be reduced another 20 percent before the end of the year.
For Yu and many others like him this creates a serious problem. It is increasingly difficult for Yu to prepare his own food and he is not allowed to use a hot plate in his room.
Although falling is a serious issue for seniors across the country, another less talked about problem is the loneliness and depression all seniors are susceptible to regardless of their economic resources.
Fai Chin, 92, is luckier than most of Chinatown’s elderly residents with a large living space and a 24-hour caregiver provided by his family. However, even in what many might consider a fortunate situation, Chin told New American Media he was not happy in his old age:
“Long life is not a good thing at all. I see my friends pass away one after another. I don’t have any friend to chat with, and making new friends is not easy at my age. Sometimes I feel lonely, but I have no solution for this problem.”
Life expectancy in the United States has steadily increased since the 1900’s causing the elderly population to skyrocket.
A reduction in services for a growing population has professionals such as Hok Lee, a senior case manager at Self-Help for the Elderly concerned about their futures:
“The government is cutting the IHSS budget heavily, and many other low-income seniors’ services. I’m worried to see how those seniors can survive under these circumstances.”