CHICAGO — A new study of Chicago's elderly Chinese finds they report high levels of elder abuse, a situation that might be, in part, related to changes in respect traditionally given to seniors.
The study, which included assistance from the Chinatown-based Chinese American Service League, queried more than 3,000 area Chinese Americans age 60 to 105, more than 90 percent born in mainland China.
About 10 percent of all American older adults experience abuse each year, according to the Pine Report, a collaboration of Rush University and Northwestern University and led by Dr. XinQi Dong of the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging.
Among Chinese older adults, about one in four — 24 percent — reported elder abuse, led by psychological and financial abuse.
"Elder abuse is a problem in the community. Older adults are too frail to go out. They depend on their children for help," one study participant was quoted as saying in the report. "If the children ignore the elderly, then the older adults will have no place to go."
The researchers found that perceptions of abuse may lie in changes in the traditional view of the elderly, including "filial piety" — a Confucian-influenced philosophy that affords respect for one's parents and ancestors.
Previous research, the study authors said, "suggests Chinese elderly perceived psychological abuse to be more serious than other forms of abuse, and being subject to disrespect was a key form."
In the area of mental health, "an alarmingly high" three in four report life stress, about half "project hopelessness towards life," and one in four feel lonely.
Among other health issues, the three most prevalent medical conditions are: hypertension (56 percent), high cholesterol (49 percent), and osteoarthritis (39 percent).
Many of Chicago's Chinese elderly "experience low acculturation levels, financial hardships and insufficient social support."
The researchers say there is a need by the elderly in the Chinese American community for increased services but, among the roadblocks, is a shortage of people to provide "linguistically and culturally appropriate care."