The challenges facing South Asian seniors

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Jagpal Singh Dara and his wife Ravinder Kaur Dara

“When many South Asian seniors first come to Canada, it is exciting, but gradually the charm started fading when there is nothing to do except watch television or read newspapers. For a senior permanent resident who wants to utilize time constructively, that can pose a challenge. I was a lawyer by profession but at my age, going back to school wasn’t an option, so I started going to a lawyer’s office to observe the law office working and of the Courts.

I volunteered for a political party in the last federal elections, I was assigned to call people on phone and canvass. I enjoyed speaking to people and trying to convince them to vote for the candidate. The feedback given by the recipients was an eye-opener. After the election, I joined the office of the legislator. This keeps me not only busy, but have developed good rapport with the staff in a congenial environment. People with different types of problems and suggestions visit the office. Interacting with them has changed my perception. I have started taking interest in the activities and development projects which are being carried on or are in the pipeline.

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If one has the will to remain active, there is no dearth of opportunities in Canada. Authorities encourage people who want to be involved. There are non-profit organisations which welcome people to become an asset to society.
I have seen lots of senior people sitting in the parks playing cards. They are wasting time in futile gossip. In fact they feel neglected by their immigrant children. If their energies are channelized they can be helpful in bringing change in the community and of course to their own personality. Majority of them are illiterate and are unaware of their rights. Their children have retained their passports.

In one case, a male parent was abandoned at a temple. He did not know the address of his son. A police personnel conversant with the language of that hapless man put questions to him to trace his son. Finally the police took the man to his house and reprimanded the son for the callous behaviour.

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There are so many such aggrieved parents suffering at the hands of the immigrants. The Government cannot shrug its responsibility with the excuse that it is not in its purview to interfere in the personal matters of the family. At the time the parents are sponsored, the immigrants guarantee to the government that they will support and look after their parents.

Another problem the seniors face is transport. They may have owned cars back home, but in Canada they have to clear a number of tests before getting a driving licence. This would not be much of a problem. But the additional burden of insurance to the tune of approximately $250 a month, being a burden on the immigrants, hampers the seniors to get the licence. So they have to bank upon the public transit.

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Acquiring a social circle is a major problem for seniors. There are language barriers which leads to frustration and boredom. Moreover, the sub-division looks deserted during working days and a curfew-like situation exists in the locality. This disillusions the seniors who often wish to return to their roots. But the quality of life and health care in Canada is par excellence. If the seniors are assured of protection of their interests and the respect which they deserve from their children, there would be no reason for them to leave this country. Rather they could prove to be contributors in the development of Canada.

It is for the State to look into the problems faced by the seniors and find solutions to resolve the same to make the elders involved and interested.” – CINEWS

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