The relationship between type of senior center and levels of utilization by the Korean elderly in New York City: A comparison of the utilization of ethnic-specific and mainstream senior centers

Wook Kim, Fordham University

Abstract

This study examines the relationship between type of senior center and levels of utilization of elderly Koreans in New York City. Two different types of senior centers that elderly Korean-Americans attend—Korean-specific and mainstream—were examined as important variables influencing four dimensions of senior center utilization—frequency of attendance, duration of attendance, activity involvement, and service use.^ Continuity theory, social exchange theory, symbolic interaction theory, cultural responsiveness hypothesis, behavioral and other service use models serve as framework for the study and are used as a means of organizing the study variables. A sample of 120 senior center users was selected by a non-probability sampling procedure, 60 from a Korean-specific center and 60 from 10 mainstream or general centers within New York City. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews using a structured questionnaire.^ The major study findings include the following: (1) The type of senior center that elderly Koreans attend was significantly related on the bivariate level to the frequency of attendance, duration of attendance, activity involvement, and service use. Elderly Koreans attending the Korean-specific center participated with lower frequency and for a shorter tenure, but had higher involvement in center activities and increased utilization of available services than those attending mainstream centers; (2) Hierarchical regression analyses, with each dimension of senior center utilization as the criterion, and socioeconomic and other selected variables as covariates, indicate that type of senior center is a significant independent contributor to all dimensions of center utilization by elderly Koreans; (3) Determinants of center utilization levels were convincingly different between elderly Koreans attending the Korean-specific center and those attending mainstream centers; and (4) Korean elders attending mainstream centers were older, had a higher educational level, had resided longer in the neighborhood and United States, and had relatively better English skills compared to those seniors attending the Korean-specific center who had more social interactions, volunteered more at the center, currently lived with other persons, spent longer time traveling to the center, and felt that they were accepted more at the center.^ The findings suggest the importance of incorporating cultural, ethnic, and language aspects in understanding the patterns and levels of senior center utilization among the Korean elderly. In other words, this study highlights the usefulness of type of center (ethnic-specific center and mainstream center) as an explanatory variable in understanding senior center utilization by this population. Policy makers and service providers must be sensitive to specific sub-group differences when planning and delivering senior center programs and services to this group. Interpretations for study findings and implications for policy, practice, and research are further discussed. ^

Subject Area

Gerontology|Social Work|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Recommended Citation

Wook Kim, "The relationship between type of senior center and levels of utilization by the Korean elderly in New York City: A comparison of the utilization of ethnic-specific and mainstream senior centers" (January 1, 2000). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI9984828.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI9984828

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