Getting By or Making It? Polish Immigrants Aging in an Ethnic Enclave of Greenpoint
Polish American Studies Vol. 76, No. 1 (Spring 2019) | pages: 39-57
The aging immigrant population in affluent Western countries is rapidly growing. In the United States, the largest share of older adults is in this population of European immigrants, however, a handful of studies focus on this group. This article aims at filling this gap by analyzing data based on thirty-two interviews with aging Polish immigrants and observations made in senior centers in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint. We analyzed (1) the opportunities that the aging Poles encountered in the context of the neighborhood of Greenpoint, metro New York City, and broader in the U.S. We also examined (2) significant challenges faced by this group and considered their coping strategies reflected in different aging models. We argue that the reality of the aging process of the immigrant population is more complex than we would prefer to see it. Neither the image of aging immigrants barely “getting by,” vulnerable, and lonely that appears in literature nor an image of the empowered and “making it” immigrant is accurate (King et al. 2016). We observed these two scenarios overlapping in biographies of individual participants and across the biographies of different participants, together with other scenarios.