The pandemic has isolated so many, but one group it has hit particularly hard is the Asian-American Pacific Islander community.
Not only have hate crimes against older adults in the AAPI community risen during the pandemic, but Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are also more at risk of dying from COVID-19 and feeling its financial constraints as well.
According to the Diverse Elders Coalition, Asian-American and Pacific Islanders are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population as their population is expected to grow 145% in the next 40 years. However, due to discrimination and isolation, they experience an overall lower quality of life.
Seniors in the AAPI community are 40% more likely to experience poverty and health issues, and AAPI women have the highest rate of suicide among older Americans.
“It’s really painful to see what our elders are going through,” said Joon Bang, CEO of the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging. “I think there are a lot of disparities and inequities that have long been misunderstood or generally a sense of apathy regarding some of these challenges.”
Along with some other groups, NAPCA has requested a $450 million investment from the Biden Administration. The money would be used for infrastructure, research, and aid to those in the AAPI community struggling to access resources that help make ends meet.
That means better access to transportation, delivered meals, and investments in groups that cater to the AAPI community so isolation is not as prevalent or intimidating.
“You know, if older adults already have language barriers to begin with, they already feel a lack of confidence because of the racism they might be experiencing,” said Bang. “Language barriers have a direct impact on the quality of life of our older adults. It’s almost the gateway to all access to resources in the country.”
Shortly after the pandemic began, NAPCA created an emergency call center. Bang says he knew APPI seniors, who are already at a predisposed risk for financial hardships, would need help navigating the many federal resources made available. He hopes any funds provided by the Biden Administration would allow them to establish similar initiatives, while also conducting more research on how to help his community.
“Language barriers have a direct impact on the quality of life of our older adults,” said Bang. “It’s almost the gateway to all access to resources in the country.”