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Empowering South Asian Seniors

Surrey, Vancouver, Feb 9, 2010
Balwant Sanghera
President, Punjabi Language Education Association

Grandparents play a prominent role in their childrens and grandchildren lives. This is more so in the South Asian community. In some cases grand parents, especially grandmothers spend more time with their grandchildren than the childrens parents. In addition to baby-sitting, most of the grandmothers end up doing a lot of other household chores such as cleaning and cooking etc. In this process, they get very little time to take care of themselves. This often results in isolation, physical and mental health problems for them. Unfortunately, some of them get little appreciation for their valuable contribution to the family.

There have been numerous cases where grandmothers in particular end up with very serious social, physical, emotional and mental health problems. In the absence of family support they have nowhere to turn to for help. Furthermore, in many cases, there is very little support and encouragement for them to seek out help. The family unit in our community is still very strong. However, we do need to recognize the issues that our seniors are facing and make an earnest effort to address them. We should not take our seniors-grandmothers and grandfathers- for granted. They also need to socialize and have the ability to lead healthy and productive lives.

Since most of the seniors in our community are also grandparents, it is important to encourage and empower them to adopt a healthy life style. In addition to appreciating their contribution to the family, we need to support them in this process. There is no doubt that a vast majority of children and grandchildren in our community do take good care of their parents and grandparents. However, there is also a small segment that needs to do more than pay a lip service to those who entirely depend upon them. A recent study indicated that seniors, who eat a healthy diet and dont smoke, are 80% less likely to have chronic disease. They are 93% less likely to develop diabetes. In this context, a four-step approach including relaxation, healthy diet, exercise, and a positive attitude seems to be crucial.

Persons of every age, especially senior citizens, must take at least half an hour every day to relax. This can be in the form of meditation, yoga or simply sitting quietly undisturbed. In addition to that, exercising for a few minutes every day contributes greatly to ones good health. Exercise may include working out in a gym or simply walking, running or jogging depending on ones age, health and stamina.

Keeping a positive attitude is also very important for our well-being. Sometime minor irritations easily frustrate us. This is more so as we advance in years. William James, a prominent American psychologist, states that a persons attitude to an event is more important than the event itself. Thus, having a positive attitude, no matter what the situation, is a great way to cope with the ups and downs in our lives.

Finally, proper diet is the key to a healthy and productive life. In our community, we have more than our fair share of health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and heart problems. Older people are more prone to them. As such, they need to be more careful about their health in this respect. It is also incumbent upon the seniors families to give them an occasional break from the daily chores. The ladies in particular, who are stuck at home for most of the day, need it even more.

Seniors-grandparents are one of our greatest and underutilized resources. At the same time, we need to recognize that they are also one of the most vulnerable and needy segments of our community. Like every one else, they also deserve respect, security and support in order to lead healthy and productive lives.

Balwant Sanghera (Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist)




Balwant Sanghera
President, Punjabi Language Education Association . He is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist in British Columbia ,Canada.