Menopause and Chinese American Females

In the study that I found conducted by Adler et. al, the purpose was to describe and examine the expectations and experiences of menopause and midlife in pre and postmenopausal Chinese American women.  The major findings were that the meaning of menopause is deeply associated with the meaning of midlife.  Most of the pre-menopausal women surveyed saw menopause to be a natural process of the life cycle as a marker for aging.  Even the word “menopause” in Chinese can be interchangeable with the word “midlife”.  While some viewed this as an indicator of old age, others saw this as a new opportunity and a second chance at life.  Although menopause is a natural cycle and is inevitable, many of the women saw this event as an empowering time in which they are able to self-assess and create new goals for themselves.  Instead of seeing menopause as the beginning of a “midlife crisis”, these women saw this time as an opportunity to take control of their own lives.

A biological concern that Chinese American women face when they reach menopause is a higher likelihood of osteoporosis.  A large majority of Asian Americans fall victim to bone density and calcium deficiency disorders as they age because of the lack of dairy and calcium in their diet.  This can be attributed to a larger number of lactose intolerant individuals within this group.  As such, a common recommendation by health care providers when Chinese American women reach menopause is to begin introducing calcium supplements into their diets.

Reference: http://www.maturitas.org/article/S0378-5122(00)00090-6/abstract

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Creativity for Aging Chinese Individuals

Every day, my grandmother wakes up at 5:30 AM – before the sun does – to do tai chi quan, a Chinese martial art.  She has done this every day for the last thirty years, and I haven’t really thought much about it until now.  I have always just seen it as a form of exercise – similar to how someone might go and take a jog in the morning or go do yoga.

However, I have realized that tai chi quan is more than that – it is a way for my grandmother to delve into her spirituality and also a form of dance and expression.  Such outlets are necessary in order to maintain mental health.  The article I found for this blog centers around how creative expression can lead to a healthier aging as well as increase longevity.

Creativity also strengthens morale in the elderly adults and has also been proven to strengthen and build relationships.  In order for my grandmother to reap the most benefits from her tai chi, I will suggest to her that she joins a tai chi group so that she can express herself among others with a similar passion.  In doing this, she will feel that she belongs to a community and will also increase her communication with others that are similar to herself.

There are many community arts programs that address the needs of creative expression for the elderly.  In doing research, I found that there is a program like this in my neighborhood and it is specifically tailored towards aging Chinese individuals.  Every week, individuals are encouraged to come, pick up an instrument or paintbrush, and socialize for a few hours.  In addition, this center also offers calligraphy classes as well as traditional Chinese opera and dance classes.  I feel that this would be extremely beneficial to my grandmother, as it will help her realize that she is not the only one that faces the difficulties of aging in a country that she does not call home.

Reference: http://www.creativeaging.org/storage/Creativity%20Matters%20AFTA%20Monograph%209%2008.pdf

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Ancient Chinese Anti-Aging Remedies

Ancient Chinese Anti-Aging Remedies The Chinese are well-known around the world to have very youthful skin, even during the aging process. Traditional Chinese medicine is thus used around the world in populations who wish to duplicate a gentle aging process. While many western remedies focus on wrinkles and topical conditions, Chinese remedies focus on deep-skin problems.

Herbs are used in masks and deep cleansing creams with the idea that rejuvenating from the inside will help to rejuvenate the outer layer. Ginseng root is a popularly used ingredient in Chinese remedies because it is seen to reduce stress and is packed with antioxidants. It also increases metabolism and helps the body to replenish its nutrients in a more efficient way. Ginseng grows in a specific environment and is easily harvested in the southern soils and climates of southern China. Because of this, it is popularly known as a Chinese root – its uses can date back to the earliest dynasties and is considered the “root of immortality”.

Another popularly Chinese anti-aging method is the use of acupuncture. This helps to promote healthy blood flow and circulation throughout the body, which heals the body inside and out, strengthening the skin and making it look more alive. In such an aging-phobic culture that America is, perhaps we should bring these Chinese methods to the mainstream in order to promote a healthier, more youthful looking population instead of focusing on Botox, and other artificial methods of looking younger, while the body continues to degenerate and age.

References: http://ezinearticles.com/?Ancient-Chinese-Remedies-and-Anti-Aging-Remedies&id=3922034

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Amy Tan Enlightens Mother-Daughter Chinese Aging Issues

Amy TanOne of my favorite authors is Amy Tan, a Chinese-American author who writes about the disparities between generations, especially those of immigrant Chinese.  She focuses on the relationships between first generation mothers and second generation daughters and documents the difficulties of communication and culture that can arise and harden relationships.

I take many of her stories to heart as I can already relate to some difficulties in conveying what is “normal” in the United States with my mother.  Amy Tan’s writing is very honest and beautiful and it makes me aware of the difficulties that can come between my mother and I as we both age.  Some of the difficulties are inevitable – such as the likelihood that I will marry someone that is not Chinese – and I look to her writing to give me wisdom in what to do when I face such conflicts.

One of my favorite books by Tan is They Joy Luck Club, a novel that documents the trials of four Chinese-American families living in San Francisco.  The mothers and daughters share stories across games of mahjong of what their lives were before they moved to the States and how they and their families have changed because of it.

I think it wise that all mother-daughter pairs that face a cultural barrier should read the novels of Amy Tan, especially as they progress in age.  They are enlightening, fascinating, and have so much truth.  It has taught me to appreciate the generation and cultural differences between my parents and I rather than simply be frustrated by them.

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Chinese Families Struggle to Provide Care for Alzheimer’s Elderly

Chinese families face the decision of fulfilling filial piety by providing their parents with home care or whether they want to provide more formalized nursing home care to their aging, Alzheimer parents.

A recent study has shed light on the unique challenges experienced by Chinese families that have elderly members that confront Alzheimer’s and dementia, specifically in San Francisco.  The families use a unique blend of western medicine as well as traditional Chinese herbal medicines to treat the disease.

Many Chinese families practice “Xiao”, which is a Confucian ideal of filial piety in which children are expected to reciprocate the love and attention that their parents gave to them in early life.  This means that even when the parents develop Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases in their later lives, Chinese families rarely look for external help in the care of their elderly parents.

This strong belief of filial piety is a large issue when the families face a choice between placing a loved one in a nursing home and whether they should nurse the loved one domestically.  Not living up to filial piety can result feelings of guilt, shame, and failure in the child and for this reason, they do everything in their means to provide for their parents – even if it means sacrificing careers and their own health.

Although this idea of taking care of the parents who take care of us is very honorable, I personally hope that this tradition will slowly wean in hopes of providing better and more formal care for the Alzheimer patients.  In nursing homes and extended care homes these patients will have more attentive and more specialized care and can in the long run be much more beneficial to the patient.  In other cases however, if the parents age without having to experience neurodegenerative diseases, then filial piety should still be carried on in the Chinese culture.

Citation: FOR CHINESE FAMILIES, ALZHEIMER’S PRESENTS UNIQUE CULTURAL CHALLENGES. (2010, November 9). US Fed News Service, Including US State News.  Retrieved November 24, 2010, from General Interest Module. (Document ID: 2183525081)

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Increasing Numbers of Chinese Elderly Convert to Christianity

In recent years, growing numbers of Mainland Chinese elders are participating in Christian churches and gatherings even during temporary visits to the United States. This is mainly due to a sense of loneliness and social isolation associated with moving to a foreign land with such different cultural values and traditions.

As a trend, more Chinese elders in suburban environments are turning to Christianity than Chinese elders living in city environments. This can be attributed to the number of interactions the elderly see on a daily basis in a suburban environment versus a city environment. For instance, living in a city, one may run into three to four familiar people when going to get groceries. But in a suburban environment, chances of interactions with familiar people are smaller because of geographic spread as well as reliance on automobiles (which can be isolating) as opposed to walking. Also because of transportation issues, accessibility to other elderly may be limited and going to church may be one of the few times a week that they have interactions similar to them. Because of fewer opportunities to interact with others in a suburban environment, Chinese elderly may find quality of life to be less and seek other ways to become involved in the community, such as religion.

Other factors explaining church environment besides the social service functions that it provides are, of course, the religious services. In an attempt to be less isolated from the community and in order to draw energy and comfort, the elderly may look for a greater being to guide them through their time in a foreign land.

I can definitely see this in my grandmother. She stays with our family about half of the year and then returns to China. Before, she focused greatly on Buddhism and as she stayed longer in the States, she became involved in the community Christian church because many of her friends were a part of it.  She has now officially converted and is very content.

Source: http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/1/0/3/5/0/p103509_index.html

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Subgroups in the Chinese American Aging Population

We often define a population by just that – the entire population.  However, in examining populations, we must look at subgroups of populations.  Specifically in Chinese American demographics, I feel that there is not enough differentiation between the people.  Instead of generalizing that all Chinese Americans age in this way, we must look to see their immigration timing and status, work history, current living situations, and language.  These variables are different with each community and affect the way that the community looks at aging as well as how to treat the elderly.

I am also at fault in the use of generalizations when looking at the Chinese American population.  It is easy to bunch the “Chinese” as one subgroup and with this blog, I will take into account that there are differences within the Chinese population.  For instance, especially in immigration time, there are many differences in the way that the elderly age.  Those who came earlier in their lifetimes may be more accustomed to the American ways of aging.  However, those who came later in their lives may expect the treatment that they receive back in China.  This is mostly caused by the amount of time they have to assimilate to the traditions of America.

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Chinese Afraid of Aging

A global survey shows that many people in China and from China are afraid of becoming older.  According to the survey in which 12,262 Chinese people were polled, 28% of the Chinese people said they feel depressed about getting old.

In addition to this, people who are from 45 to 54 years old and Chinese already consider themselves as a part of the elderly community.  To me, the last statistic is very interesting, as the Chinese population has one of the highest life spans when compared to all other ethnicities.  At the 45-54 age range, most Chinese elderly are expected to live well over 80 years whereas African Americans at the 45-54 age range are expected to live only on average 20 more years over this range.  This shows that the life expectancy of the Chinese population doubles the life expectancy of the African American population after this 45 – 54 year old age range.

A main reason the Chinese are afraid of aging is because they are afraid of who will care for them after a certain age.  In mainland China specifically, the elderly believe that it should be the government’s responsibility to care for the aging population whereas in the United States, the elderly turn more towards the second generation.  In the United States, the culture and lifestyle of the second generation is extremely different from that of the first generation of Chinese Americans, which can be the root of their worries.  For instance, although the first generation of immigrants to the States may be firm in keeping to traditional values and practices, the succeeding generations who are born in the States do not retain many of such traditions.  A desire to move forward, to be financially secure, and to make the family proud drive young Chinese Americans to live fast-paced lives.  As an elderly, it would be easy to succumb to the idea that the second generation will move so fast that they will forget the people who gave them such opportunities in the first place.

The statistic that over a third of the Chinese people polled declared that they have already put money aside for retirement and/or have taken out insurance further exemplifies this.  Because they do not think that they will be factored into the financials of their sons and daughters twenty to thirty years down the road, they are putting their own money together so that they will not be reliant on them.

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Introduction

Hello everybody,

My name is Lu and I am starting a blog for my gerontology class.  I will be blogging about issues that affect the aging Chinese American population today.  I will also be looking at what affects them in the past as well as traditional and modern methods that have changed their outlook on aging as well as the entire aging process.  I hope that together we can explore these themes in deeper detail and find more appreciation for the elderly population throughout the semester.  Enjoy and feel free to comment!

Best,

Lu

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