Asa's First Multicultural Awards Honor Three Programs

Aging Today, May/June 2006 | Go to article overview

Asa's First Multicultural Awards Honor Three Programs


For the first time, the American Society on Aging's Network of Multicultural Aging (NOMA) presented its NOMA Award for Excellence in Multicultural Aging at the association's annual meeting in Anaheim in March. The three winners-a comprehensive lifelong learning and wellness program for Asian elders and their caregivers, a four-language telephone helpline assisting older adults with Medicare benefits, and a respite and caregiver support service for Chinese and Vietnamese elders-received $1,500 and other benefits.

"The NOMA Award will support the broader vision of diversity at ASA by identifying and recognizing best practices in programs and services that meet the needs of elders in diverse communities nationwide" said Paul Takayanagi, ASA's director of diversity programs. AARP sponsored this year's awards:

To learn more about the Network of Multicultural Aging, contact Takayanagi at ptaka @asaging.org or (415) 974-9632.

LEARNING, WELLNESS IN SACRAMENTO

Those trying to master the fluid but exacting movements and sequencing of tai chi exercises would find the classes frustrating and difficult without clear instruction in their own tongues-including Asian languages. But American-born and non-Chinese elders at the Asian Community Center of Sacramento Valley in California (ACC) initially had difficulty following the tai chi instructors, who spoke better Cantonese and Mandarin than English-and "trilingual instruction would have been arduous, difficult and disruptive," according to ACC Executive Director Donna L. Yee. But when a bilingual staff member offered informal explanations in English, bilingual class participants-who were involved in a program to help family caregivers-followed suit, using language skills they often took for granted, she said.

Yee went on, "The heightened interaction helped participants get acquainted and make friendships." The result, she added, was a greater tolerance of the program's multilingual environment, "including some of the best potlucks at the end of each class series." Yee stressed that although most service agencies target members of the same cultural groups, ACC takes the unusual approach of bringing a variety of health, cultural and social programs to Asian elders from a number of cultures. For these older adults, Yee said, "a lack of service access persisted" due to differences in language, ethnic background and cultural practices.

Beginning in 2001, ACC was able to use funding from the U.S. Administration on Aging's National Caregiver Support Program to test several interventions aimed at reaching older Asian and Pacific Islanders concentrated along the western corridor of Sacramento. Using data from the 2000 U.S. Census, ACC found 5,000 older Asian and Pacific Islander residents-more than one-quarter of those 65 or older-in that section of the Golden State's capital. Reaching elders' family caregivers, who often do not self-identify as such, presented another challenge.

ISOLATED ELDERS

ACC started its NOMA Award-winning Lifelong Learning and Wellness Program (LLWP) in 2002 to provide support for multicultural family caregivers. The program offers small-group and community-level interventions, as well as culturally appropriate caregiver support resources. LLWP provides opportunities for elders, who are often isolated and recovering from an illness, and their caregivers to reconnect with the community and contribute to mutual help arrangements. Periodic use of feedback cards and follow-up interviews with family caregivers help staff and volunteers identify service needs and practical interventions. Feedback enabled staff and volunteers.to successfully launch social day respite and transportation services, as well as expand the classes offered by the program.

Because most of these caregivers do not self-identify as a "family caregiver" on forms or when surveyed, staff elicited their input by using common idioms and other approaches to recognize caregiver challenges in their outreach efforts. …

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