March 25, 2022 By Allie Griffin
About three-quarters of Asian seniors in New York City are afraid to leave their homes due to the recent spike in anti-Asian violence, according to a report released Thursday.
The Asian American Federation (AAF) surveyed 153 Asian seniors as well as 15 community-based organizations across the city and found that 75 percent of respondents said they are weary to leave their homes due to anti-Asian violence.
The AAF’s Seniors Working Group, which is an advocacy group for elderly Asians, attributes these fears to the increase in bias attacks since the outbreak of COVID-19. NYPD data shows that hate crimes targeting AAPI New Yorkers increased 343 percent in 2021 compared to 2020.
The spike in Asian hate is leaving many seniors in the AAPI community isolated at home. Many are also not getting the government services they need since they are reluctant to go out.
The federation’s survey found that one-third of Asian seniors don’t have daily contact with family, friends or neighbors — attributing the high numbers to violence involving Asian-Americans.
In recent months, four Asian American women have died from violent assaults in high profile incidents. GuiYing Ma, Yao Pan Ma, Michelle Go and Christina Yuna Lee were all killed by strangers in brutal attacks. Yao Pan Ma is the only one to be ruled a hate crime.
Advocates for the AAPI community said more outreach needs to be done to help Asian seniors—the fastest-growing senior population in NYC—during this troubling time.
They say AAPI seniors, in order to get the government services they need, require help overcoming language barriers as well as using the internet.
Two-thirds of the AAPI elders surveyed said they need help translating documents from their native language into English, and half of the respondents said they are not comfortable accessing the internet on their own.
“Asian seniors are left out of government programs and vital mental health services because they lack English language skills,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of the AAF.
Access to senior services is critical for many older Asian New Yorkers as 42 percent are poor or low-income, according to the AAF.
“Asian American seniors are one of the fastest-growing senior populations in New York City, yet there is shockingly little infrastructure in place to support and protect them especially as our community contends with the devastating ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Yoo said.
“Our community needs help now, and we look towards our city’s leaders to help us continue our work and expand the support Asian seniors deserve.”
Queens Council Member Linda Lee, who chairs the city council’s committee on mental health, disabilities and addictions, said the AAF report is both eye-opening and alarming.
“While Asian seniors are the fastest-growing senior demographic and rank among some of the poorest in NYC, it’s clear that we are failing them in ways big and small,” she said in a statement. “As a city, we must commit to increasing resources to counteract the mental health effects of isolation, anti-Asian hate, and cuts to social services during the pandemic.”
Lee, one of the two Korean American council members, said she will continue to fight for Asian seniors within the city council.
Her fellow Queens council member Lynn Schulman also said she would work to provide services and protections to AAPI seniors.
“Asian American Seniors are some of the most under-protected residents of this city,” stated Schulman, who represents Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens and Richmond Hills. “In my District alone I serve a vast majority of AAPI elders and know how vital protecting them is.”