Community Treasures: Recognizing the Contributions of Older Immigrants and Refugees

The purpose of this report is to gain a better understanding of why and how older immigrants contribute to their families and communities and to identify promising practices that support the engagement of immigrant elders in meaningful roles.

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The study documents the motivations and activities of 99 elders from diverse ethnic communities in Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Orange County, California. Data from focus groups, interviews with “engaged” elders, and discussions with organizations that have successfully supported older immigrants in civic roles allow the reader to hear the voices of immigrant elders and community leaders representing six ethnolinguistic groups: Latino, Chinese, Liberian, Vietnamese, Somali, and Ethiopian.

In many cultures, the U.S. concept of “volunteering” is an unfamiliar one. Therefore, in this report, “civic engagement” is broadly defined to include informal and formal helping, giving, leading, influencing, and participating, which more closely reflect the variety of ways in which elders assist one another, their families, and younger generations. When considering the civic engagement of foreign-born elders, words such as “volunteering” and “community service” may need to be replaced with more culturally appropriate language.