Churches Can Make a Difference for Senior Immigrants: Here’s How
Moving to a new country is always challenging, but for senior immigrants, the transition is often more difficult. Older adults can have a harder time adapting to a new culture, finding a social support network, and figuring out ways to remain connected to their homeland in an unfamiliar environment. Not only does this make the transition lonelier, but it puts them at serious risk for physical and mental health issues along the way.
Fortunately, church communities have the power to make a significant difference in senior immigrants’ lives. Below, Homeschooling Dietitian Mom presents some ideas for how you can open your heart — and your community — to senior immigrants.
Offer Useful Resources
When getting to know your new neighbors, try to stay attuned to their needs and offer resources when you can. For example, if they mention they want to send money to relatives in the Philippines, you can point them toward trustworthy services that will send funds without huge fees.
A site like Remitly offers safe and speedy transfers that are either free or cost as low as $3.99 depending on how much you send. You can also offer to help them set up video chats, navigate instant messaging platforms, or create care packages to send to their loved ones. Your input can also help them find a network in their new home. For example, if they’re looking for an opportunity to take a class or connect with the community, suggest some local options.
The benefit here isn’t just the recommendation or resource itself. Although the help can be extremely valuable, this kind of active attention also shows your neighbors that they have a friend and ally. It might seem like a small gesture, but it can go a long way toward helping senior immigrants know they have someone they can turn to.
Provide a Spiritual Community
Religion and spirituality often have a key place in senior immigrants’ hearts. But it’s not always easy to find a welcoming space in a new country. Go out of your way to make your church community as immigrant friendly as you can so that people know they’re welcome to worship with you. For example, if you have a sizable immigrant population that shares a common language, consider offering services in that language to create a space where people can feel more at home.
Not every church is going to have the resources to make something like that possible. However, there are other ways you can ensure your space is welcoming. Many new churchgoers feel unnoticed or left out. Prevent this in your community by creating a welcoming committee made up of congregants dedicated to noticing and greeting church visitors. A simple, “Hello, nice to meet you!” can help visitors know they’re valued in your parish.
Invite, Introduce, and Include
Finally, try to involve senior immigrants in community activities. Make sure they know when social gatherings, fundraisers, and volunteer outings are happening and invite them to come along. Remember, however, that it’s not enough to get them there. To really make an impact and ensure you’re providing a supportive community, you need to make sure they’re truly included.
Do this by making an effort to invite them once they arrive. For example, if you see that they’re sitting by themselves or seem to be looking for a place to be, include them in your conversation or activity. This is especially helpful for immigrants since they may be hesitant to dive into social situations. They may fear inadvertently breaking a social norm. Taking the lead gives them a safe space to observe. It also takes some of the pressure off when trying to navigate a new culture all alone.
Churches Can Make a Difference
Everyone has something valuable to offer to your church community. And your congregation can do its part to make sure senior immigrants feel welcome, safe, and comfortable in their new country. These tips are a wonderful way to keep your space inviting to all. It’s also a terrific way to ensure that older immigrants get the resources they need along the way.
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Alyssa Strickland created millennial-parents.com for all the new parents on the block. Alyssa believes the adage that it takes a village to raise a child, but she also thinks it takes a village to raise a parent! Millennial-Parents is that village. Today’s parents can be more connected than ever, and she hopes her site will enrich those connections. On Millennial-Parents, she shares tips and advice she learns through experience and from other young parents in three key areas — Education, Relationships, and Community.