Chapter 9: Newcomer Family Settlement in Canada

Supporting Seniors in Settlement

Seniors face unique challenges when they arrive in Canada. The healthcare system is different from their country of origin, and language issues often make things more difficult. The issue of loneliness can be a significant problem and extends beyond simple communication barriers—it can lead older immigrants to avoid or miss out on social interaction.

Three seniors making funny faces while taking a selfie
Three elderly people taking a selfie together

Health care is another concern. Many older people have chronic conditions or mobility problems, so general healthcare services may not be enough for them. The healthcare system is complex and difficult to navigate, which adds emotional strain; specialized support groups can provide emotional relief. For example, multi-generational programs can benefit everyone, fostering mutual support.

Lu et al. (2023) found that 30.8% of immigrant seniors and 34.0% of Canadian-born seniors feel lonely. The study interviewed 968 immigrant and 1,703 Canadian-born older adults. Both groups share reasons for loneliness. For example, they both report limited positive social interactions and a desire for more social, recreational, and group activities. But older immigrants have distinct factors contributing to their loneliness. For instance, being widowed can be especially difficult for newcomers because they may depend on their spouse not only to help them navigate in their new environment, but also to deal with social and cultural phenomena that take place among people who do not share a language. Facing poor health (physically, mentally, and socially) can also be very challenging because of social and linguistic differences. Additionally, residing in neighbourhoods with lower ethnic diversity and income levels can create higher stress levels among immigrants, refugees, and other newcomers. Canadian-born seniors, on the other hand, experience unique factors related to struggling with mental health issues, having a weak sense of community belonging, and living alone. Being female can also be a challenge for Canadian-born seniors. In fact, loneliness affects more immigrant females (39.1%) compared to males (21.9%) (Lu et al., 2023).

As shown in Figure 1 (Lu et al., 2023), the level of loneliness among immigrants varied based on their time in Canada, country of birth, and language proficiency. Recent immigrants (within the last 10 years) experienced higher loneliness rates compared to those who had been in Canada for a longer time (32.9% vs. 30.8%) (Lu et al., 2023). Immigrants born in Asia had a greater prevalence of loneliness (ranging from 32.2% to 36.7%) compared to those born in the United States, Europe, South America, or the Caribbean (ranging from 21.7% to 29.7%) (Lu et al., 2023). Additionally, immigrants who did not speak either of Canada’s official languages (English or French) reported higher loneliness rates than those who spoke English or French but no other languages (36.9% vs. 28.2%) (Lu et al., 2023).

In conclusion, while both groups shared some reasons for loneliness, factors related to the community had a stronger impact on loneliness in immigrants. These findings provide valuable insights into loneliness and can guide the development of policies and practices specifically tailored to support older immigrants.


Learning Activity 5: Reading

Read this CBC Report about culturally specific day programs in British Columbia (Braich, 2022) that improve seniors’ mental health and answer the following questions:

Discussion Questions:

  1. According to the report, what specific benefits do culturally specific day programs offer seniors? How might these programs improve mental health among senior citizens?
  2. What challenges are highlighted in the report regarding the availability and accessibility of culturally specific day programs for seniors? In your opinion, how can these challenges be addressed?
  3. The report mentions a growing need for more of these programs. In your opinion, what actions could be taken to increase the availability of such programs for seniors from diverse cultural backgrounds?
  4. How does independence contribute to the mental well-being of senior immigrants?
  5. In your opinion, how can culturally specific programs for immigrant seniors that prioritize addressing language barriers be further enhanced to create environments where seniors not only connect linguistically, but also find a sense of comfort through the integration of their cultural backgrounds?

Interactive Activity 5

Resource Activity

The Government of Canada’s report titled “Social isolation of seniors: A focus on new immigrant and refugee seniors in Canada from the Government of Canada” offers tools and resources for further discussion.

Part 2, Appendix B, provides three short summaries that show the risk factors of immigrant seniors and serves as a starting point for discussions on solutions.

Image Credit

Three Elderly People Taking a Group Selfie by Kampus Production, Pexels licence


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Canadian Settlement in Action: History and Future Copyright © 2021 by NorQuest College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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