Since the start of 2022, the Chinese Community Response Network (CCRN) has been actively engaging with seniors, holding a series of public forums where Chinese-speaking members of the community safely shared their stories of financial abuse, of their challenges in understanding their financial rights in BC and the resources available to help, and of their worries managing expectations of their children and family.
“The topic of personal finances, especially when there is abuse, is a sensitive one in Chinese culture,” says Daisy Au, Coordinator of the CCRN and MOSAIC’s Seniors Club.
“For many of the seniors we engaged, it was their first time even hearing about financial abuse and abuse by family members. For the seniors who have good family relationships, financial abuse wasn’t a problem they felt they needed to understand or be bothered with,” says Melanie Guerrero-Fong, an independent community outreach consultant.
Initial Financial Literacy Campaign Attracted over 200 People by WEAAD 2022
The CCRN team of Daisy, Melanie, Lin Chen, an independent contractor with not-for-profits, along with several community service providers organized nine public forums as part of a more extensive financial literacy campaign that began in December 2021. Chinese seniors were invited to learn about financial abuse through facilitated conversations. View our previous story about this campaign.
The team and the community created, developed, and produced a series of culturally appropriate video skits to kick off their conversations with the seniors.
“The story ideas came from seniors and the community, so they really reflected the realities of today,” adds Daisy. “They really helped set the context and create a safe space to talk and share.”
Over the nine forums and by World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2022 in June, the CCRN and community partners hosted 221 seniors. Participants began sharing their stories, asking questions, and offering what they knew about finances, taxes, and wills to one another. Come the end of the campaign, participants were ready to take action to manage their finances and found support in one another to learn everything they could.
“It was a key mind shift. In Chinese culture, disclosing disgraces is frowned upon,” Melanie explains. “There are also no parent-child boundaries in our culture and often adult children take control of their aging parents’ finances without asking. The senior doesn’t push back and ends up needing to ask their child for spending money. Our seniors saw that they can make their own financial decisions, manage their own money, and share whatever it is they want with their children when they decide the time is right.”
Social Isolation Risk Factors, Cultural Exchange Also Addressed
The campaign had a ripple effect that went beyond financial abuse prevention. By gathering in person and online to share stories, the seniors were also reducing their risk of self-isolation, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic that had many living in fear.
“They were coming out and connecting. They were learning new skills, including English, and becoming more confident,” says Daisy. “They were redefining what retirement meant for them and talked about joining more social activities so they can enhance their own abilities. The ‘Canadian culture’ of setting boundaries and contributing to the community were being welcomed.”
The outcomes and the resources created because of the campaign were presented on June 15 at World Elder Abuse Awareness Day as part of a larger program that highlighted several seniors’ programs. The day was also marked with the recognition of volunteer contributions and a celebration of seniors.
“Powering Up”: The Next Chapter
The results of the campaign were evident: in a supportive, safe environment where language was not a barrier, Chinese seniors are willing to seek help, set boundaries, share advice, and support one another.
“They showed they are able to choose their own ways of living and learning, and they also learned that sometimes Chinese cultural norms may be doing more harm than not,” says Daisy. “They were hopeful that there were more things to explore in the future than the obligation to care for grandchildren.”
The campaign’s resources are currently being enhanced as part of a follow-up project called Powering Up, which looks to extend the work of the original Financial Literacy Campaign over the next three years.
Year one, which has already started, has the CCRN laying a new foundation, and assessing its community networks. The work also involves reviewing and consolidating the resources – contact lists for local resources, adult abuse checklists, resources on aging – to create a new online hub where users can find materials, services, and supports province-wide.
Next, the team plans to tackle the challenge of translating BC CRN’s It’s Not Right! program, an outreach tool to help the public identify the signs and signals of possible adult abuse in people, into a Chinese version that is culturally appropriate.
“We also want BC CRN’s program team to train our community partners to deliver the Chinese version of It’s Not Right! to deliver workshops,” explains Daisy. “We already have forum participants who became volunteers, which is wonderful. We now want to invite people from organizations to train their own, to make connections with seniors, and to share in the work of abuse prevention.”
In the second year, the team intends to launch a volunteer team of creative seniors to produce new video skits on additional scenarios to support conversations about adult abuse and isolation.
By year three, the team hopes to see a deeper social impact through coordinated community responses to issues in the Chinese community.
“Powering Up is an excellent example of how a smaller initiative can grow and have sustainable, lasting effects on communities,” says Joanna Li, Regional Mentor – Vancouver. “It’s so exciting!”
(Header photo: Chinese CRN)