New council to help Chinese seniors in Queens

By Madina Toure

Selfhelp Community Services, a nonprofit that works to secure independent living for seniors, has established a Chinese Advisory Council to assist older Chinese immigrants living in Queens.

The formation of the council, which has 10 founding members from the Chinese-American community, was announced at a Jan. 13 news conference at Selfhelp’s newest building at 137-39 45th Ave. in downtown Flushing. The council will advise and identify resources to address the crucial needs of Chinese elders.

The members are primarily from other places such as Manhattan and Long Island, but some work or live in Flushing and represent a variety of fields, including physicians, business leaders, communications professionals and young generation Chinese Americans.

“We will work to facilitate access to services, including housing, entitlements, home care, classes and more for our Chinese elders who have done so much for so many over their lifetimes,” Tai Wang, the council’s chairwoman, said.

Selfhelp also announced a Chinese platform for its Virtual Senior Center and the formation of YoungGen, an intergenerational program that helps the younger Chinese generation learn about their elders and culture and give back to the community.

Founded in 1936 to help émigrés fleeing from Nazi persecution, Selfhelp has affordable residential complexes, Nazi Victim Services programs, senior centers, Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities, case management programs and a legal guardianship program in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island.

More than 25,000 European Jewish refugees were saved during the Holocaust because China allowed them to settle in Shanghai, according to Selfhelp.

Among the nonprofit’s clients are Holocaust survivors who lived in the Shanghai Ghetto as well as Chinese immigrants who lived in Shanghai during World War II.

About 25 percent of the 20,000 clients Selfhelp serves are Asian, primarily Chinese, and the majority of those are low-income seniors who emigrated from China.

Out of the more than 5,000 Asian clients Selfhelp serves, 704 live in Selfhelp’s affordable apartment buildings and more than 4,200 Asian clients attend one of Selfhelp’s state-of-the-art senior centers.

New York City has 350,200 Chinese residents, according to a 2013 Department of City Planning report.

The Chinese population could become the city’s largest immigrant group in the next few years. It is currently in second place behind Dominican immigrants, the report said.

CEO Stuart Kaplan said Selfhelp has been in Flushing since the 1960s, noting that it serves the Asian populations in Flushing, Bayside and Queens in general.

“The purpose of the council is to raise awareness of the growing number and needs of Chinese immigrants and to inform the community of the available services that Selfhelp has,” Kaplan said. Borough President Melinda Katz, City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing), City Councilwoman Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan) and five other Queens elected officials also praised the newly formed council.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.