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The culture of aging among South Asian communities in Vancouver Lal, Rohinee Lata


Current studies on aging emphasize that Canada's population is steadily growing older and existing policies and programs need to adjust to these changes. Termed the "apocalyptic demography" ideology, scholars believe that this trend will place higher demands on the young to pay to meet the needs of the aged. A criticism of this ideology is its failure to recognize the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity within the aging community and in the individual experiences of aging. This work examines the aging process among South Asian communities in Vancouver by aiming to answer the following three questions: (1) What factors do South Asians consider when they think about caring for elderly parents? (2) What services for the elderly currently exist and what are their usage patterns? (3) What are the current and anticipated caring needs of South Asian elders? Data for this study was collected through interviews and focus groups conducted with South Asian elders, their adult caregivers, and community service providers. The results of this research indicate that adult caregivers are concerned with values such as filial piety, primogeniture, family dynamics, and caregiver burden when they consider caring for their elderly. Weekly South Asian support groups that currently exist in Vancouver provide outlets where elders can socialize with others and learn about community resources. There appears to be no strong preference for a particular type of elder care. However, many South Asian elders and their families cite deteriorating health as the main reason they would consider using care facilities. While current demographics of the South Asian communities in Vancouver counteract the "apocalyptic demography" argument by indicating no strong urgency to meet the needs of the elders, these needs will gradually change in the future. In Vancouver, South Asian communities tend to have individuals who display more supportive networks of social resources suggesting a lesser demand on government-run services. By organizing more community-based services for elders as an extension of traditional family caregiving, this method of elder care can serve as a model for meeting the needs of other aging populations throughout the province without creating a strong dependency on government-run resources.

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