Living independently as an ethnic minority elder: A relational perspective on the issues of aging and ethnic minority

This study examines the residential experiences of Korean ethnic elders in affordable housing in the greater Chicago area, focusing on how patterns of social relationships that evolved around a geographical location and its urban infrastructure enabled the elders to achieve their desire for residential independence. Based on the theoretical concept of activity settings and social capital, the study suggests an integrated theoretical model where social capital is understood as an embedded asset of an activity setting. Methodologically, this study uses a combined method of qualitative interviews with 138 Korean elders in affordable housing in the greater Chicago area and a geographic analysis of their social relationships in order to present associations among social relationships, urban infrastructures, and the shared value of independence within their residential communities. The study findings indicate that the elders mobilized ethnic businesses, urban infrastructures, and the collective efficacy of groups to achieve the shared goal of maintaining residential independence. In each community, a cultural broker acted as an important bridge between the community of ethnic minorities and the larger social networks coexisting within the community boundary. The relational perspective as a potent ground for understanding and further solving the issues of aging and ethnicity is highlighted.

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