ON MIGRATION: Growing old as an immigrant

May 4, 2018

Ashok is a friend and supporter of CSF. He writes a monthly blog that talks about being an Indian immigrant in the US among other fascinating topics. You can find it here

By Ashok Boghani, May 1, 2018

I wrote a Blog Post a few months ago (February 2017) on the challenges that an immigrant faces related to taking care of the parents left behind in their homeland. I got several responses to that Post, many of them quite different from what I expected. I wrote that Post primarily from my (immigrant’s) perspective, not parents who are in India. However, the responses I got from my colleagues in India were from parent’s perspective because many of them have their children in US and are in the process of deciding what to do. Very interesting.

To put it in perspective, we are talking about three generations here: We, our parents and our children. Complexity arises when two generations reside in different continents.For us, living in US, the challenge was taking care of parent in India. For colleagues in India, the issue is how to make sure you enjoy your children and grand children who in many cases reside in the US. For their children, the issue will be similar to what we face–how to look after parents (my colleagues) in India. It is as if the whole thing is shifted by one generation.

For those of us in the US, the remaining years could be challenging or may not be. It depends on what you are used to and what you expect. Some folks are comfortable spending the remaining time here. We have a well-established system for elders who go from a big house to a small-one floor one, to an assisted living facility and then to nursing home and finally a hospice before passing on. There are enough things to do and learn to keep you busy. We would not depend on our children to look after us, but they are nearby, at least in the same country, if we need to.

For many Indian immigrants, this is not good enough. They would rather go back to India and spend the remaining years there. However, then they will be in the same situation as our parents were—children would visit them one or two times a year, or you would come to US to occasionally spend time with them. That would be it.

Also, I am not sure how easy it would be for us to adjust back there. Indeed, we have wonderful friends and family in India, but the day-to-day living has too many hassles. Traffic, noise, pollution, bureaucracy, corruption, and such things can get to you when you live there, not just visit. Further, not having a well-developed assisted living/nursing home/hospice system could make the end of life difficult.

May be the continued presidency of Mr. Trump will push us into that direction 🙂 Until then, we are happy plotting our future based on living here for the rest of our lives.

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