A Case Study of Exploring Older Chinese Immigrants’ Social Support within a Chinese Church Community in the United States

Research paper by Chih-ling Liou, Dena Shenk

Indexed on: 14 Jun '16Published on: 13 Jun '16Published in: Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology


The number of older Chinese immigrants living in the United States is increasing steadily. They are faced with challenges to meet their needs for social support and are unlikely to turn to formal services. This case study utilizes an ecological framework to analyze social support among Chinese immigrants age 65 year and older within a Christian Chinese church community, and to explore the ways in which a Chinese church functions as the source of social support for older Chinese immigrants. Seven months of participant observation and ten face-to-face, in-depth interviews were conducted with 65+ Chinese adults who attended one Chinese church in the Southern United State and included questions concerning patterns of support and personal relationships within the church. Findings revealed that gender, living arrangements, working experiences, ability to drive, and English language skills were related to support the older Chinese immigrants sought, received, and provided. Although the Chinese church can be a viable source of supplementary support, some participants in this study felt the support they received from the church was insufficient, particularly in terms of emotional support. Therefore, suggestions are outlined that may assist Chinese churches to be more proactive in better understanding and providing services that meet the different needs and desires of older Chinese immigrants.