Chinese American Utilization, Preferences, and Barriers: Elderly Housing and Senior Services in the Boston Area

Oiyan A. Poon
Ngai Kwan


This report summarizes the findings from a research study conducted between December 2010 and April 2011. The goal of the study was to understand the housing and service needs of Chinese American seniors in the Boston area. To ascertain Chinese American seniors' current usage, needs, and interests in elder housing and services, we administered surveys and conducted group interviews with Chinese American seniors and adults involved in making decisions related to the care and housing of Chinese American elderly. The research project was guided by the following research questions:

  1. What is the current participation of elder care services and housing options among older Chinese American adults in the Greater Boston area?
  2. What types of elder housing and senior services options do Boston area Chinese American seniors and their families prefer?
  3. How do structural and cultural factors, as well as individual and family interests affect the decisions and participation of elderly Chinese Americans in currently available elder care services and housing offerings?

The findings of this study suggest that the utilization of elder housing and senior services by Chinese Americans has potential to increase. In addition to the rapid rate at which this population is growing, interest in senior services and housing options may not be reflected by current levels of participation due to three primary barriers. First, we found that many Chinese Americans, especially the elderly, are limited in their knowledge about elderly housing and senior services options. Second, most Chinese American elderly and caretakers are limited in their English proficiency, possibly preventing this population from participating in services. Third, many of our subjects have significant financial constraints that may hinder them from utilizing housing and services targeted at elderly populations.

Following a description of the background and methodology of this study, the report is organized into five sections. The first section summarizes the characteristics including age, immigration status, economic class, educational attainment, and location of residence of the survey response subjects, and compares them to demographic data available from the U.S. Census Bureau. The report then summarizes findings from the study on current trends in usage and interests in housing, elder care services, and healthcare. Factors influencing the decision-making processes related to elderly housing, elder care services, and healthcare are discussed. The final findings section of the report focuses on language barriers and the importance of translation services to the participation of Chinese American seniors in elderly housing and senior services. Finally, it concludes with a brief summary of study findings.