Tom and Wendy Teng, who emigrated from Hong Kong and South Vietnam, live in a modest, rented Rosemead home with sons Steve, 12, and Richard, 2.
Though it is hard to generalize about Asian-Pacifics' experiences, if for no other reason than that there are more than 20 of their cultures represented in Southern California, it is largely true that in their native lands, "there has always been strong emphasis on the extended family," said Stanley Sue, a UCLA psychology professor and a Chinese-American."With the Chinese, for instance, the roots come from Confucian values many centuries old, whereby the elderly are not only given respect, but often reverence," Sue said.
Many Asian families immigrate to this country intact, meaning they bring their elderly with them, said Louise Kamikawa, director of the Seattle-based National Pacific/Asian Resource Center on Aging."In most agrarian cultures, which is the case with many of the Asians, the families are accustomed to taking care of their elderly," she said.
"Then, all of them find themselves in a culture in which this isn't always followed."In contrast to the West, where the emphasis is on the nuclear family--the husband, wife and children--many Asian cultures have traditions in which at least three generations of a family live together.
What should the elderly themselves expect in terms of housing, economic security and independence?
Will Be Closely Watched How the 900,000 Asian-Pacifics in Los Angeles County resolve these and other questions about the aged will be closely watched not just in the United States, but also overseas and particularly in Japan--a graying society in which as many as 70% of all the elderly now live with and rely to some degree on their families."We are constantly giving answers to scholars who are increasingly coming over from Japan to find out about housing and nutrition programs here for the elderly," said Emi Yamaki, director of the Senior Nutrition Group in Little Tokyo.
"A lot of the elderly there aren't used to independence but it may be forced on them."More and more (in Japan and in Southern California) you hear about 'the problem of the elderly.' "The problem of the elderly.
The mere suggestion of that thought represents a sort of cultural revolution, experts say.
As they grow increasingly Westernized, Asian-Pacifics say they feel squeezed between the needs of their children and those of their parents.
They are caught in an emotional tug between centuries of tradition and the pressures of the 1980s.
Should they preserve the customs, large and small, that govern relations between the young and old?
Should they try to maintain their extended families in a Western society focused on nuclear families?