Finding Meaning in Life Again
“I don’t want to live a meaningless life anymore” whispered Linh, a single 68-year old Vietnamese woman.
About a year ago, Linh was introduced to our ReConnect Technology class. Our ReConnect Early Intervention Services for Older Adults (EISOA) Program provides support groups, educational trainings, skill development workshops, home visitations and physical activities to improve the mental health and enhance the quality of life of older adults.
When Linh arrived to ReConnect, she was like many other Vietnamese women that grew up during the time of war – she didn’t complete her education, dropping out of school at the age of 14 to work and support her family. In 2004, Linh was sponsored by her sister to come to the U.S. to be a caretaker for their mother. Linh tirelessly tended to her mother for almost a decade, and become increasingly disconnected from the outside world. After her mother passed away Linh found herself isolated and alone, without friends or social skills. She became fearful and depressed; her sister was her only connection to the community.
Many elderly immigrants become estranged from society, often not speaking enough English to connect with their American neighbors. Linh was scared and anxious after her mother’s passing, but she knew she wanted to change. This was not the existence she envisioned for herself when she left her homeland. Her biggest challenge was overcoming her fears and lack of transportation. After living in isolation for so long, she no longer knew how to perform simple tasks – such as taking the bus, dialing a phone number, or how to start a conversation with a stranger.
However, with the encouragement of her family, the ReConnect team and the participants in the class, Linh overcame her obstacles little by little, every day. She said, “I want to go class, learn computer, learn English, learn citizenship classes and wish to pass the citizenship test one day.”
These small, simple skills are what we take for granted every day. Yet they are integral to how older adults connect with a society that seems to be moving faster than they can keep up. Linh slowly learned how to take the bus to class on her own. She learned how to dial a phone number and make friends with classmates. She also learned how to use an iPad to search for ESL lessons for citizenship lessons. These little things meant the world to her. Linh continues to achieve her goals and has committed herself to make the most out of life.
Linh said, “The ReConnect Program has helped me so much – to connect me back to the world. I now can go online to watch my favorite shows, google to search for recipes to cook good food for others, and most importantly, to video call with my relatives in Vietnam. All of those things make me so happy.”
Life satisfaction can be measured by how individuals feel about their direction and options for the future. It is a measure of well-being and may be assessed in terms of mood, satisfaction with relations with others and with achieved goals, self-concepts, and self-perceived ability to cope with daily life. Our ReConnect Program strives to help older adults achieve personal goals and learn new skills to enhance their lives. When you are satisfied with life, you tend to share your joy with others. Linh did just that during the holiday season when she was surprised to win two gift cards from a bingo game hosted at one of our partner facilities. Instead of keeping them, she offered those gift cards to other participants saying: “I want to share my luck and happiness with people around me.”
Struggles like Linh’s happen more often than one could imagine. Isolation and loneliness often strike when a person is at the most vulnerable point of his or her adult life. It can seem overwhelming and as if there is no one to turn to.
Help the Council on Aging – Southern California empower older adults like Linh. We can make our community a better place, and we can protect the lives of older and disabled adults together.
If you found this story inspiring, please consider making a donation to help the Council on Aging – Southern California continue to help seniors like Linh and the many more in our community who need our support.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.