Macklind International Opens Doors
City’s First Multicultural Senior Center Welcomes Its First Groups
GRAND OPENING OCTOBER 23, 2013, 2PM – 7PM
1329 Macklind Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63110
St. Louis, August 15, 2013 – For more than one decade, Bi-Lingual International Assistant Services (BIAS) has faithfully served elderly immigrants and refugees living in the St. Louis region with a variety of socialization and naturalization services. This month, BIAS opened a fully functional international senior center in south St. Louis. This is a defining moment in the agency’s evolution as it serves the needs of this important population. On August 15, the center provided support for the first time to a group of Albanian seniors. The group – organized by BIAS case worker Emiranda Gace – came for fellowship, benefits assistance, recreation, health education, and a nutritious meal. What makes this center stand out from others is the nature of the culturally appropriate service provided – right down to the native Albanian meal served. The BIAS senior center is intended to provide basic supports, but in a comfortable and familiar environment that will improve the experience of seniors as well as their ability to live independently in the community. To that end, BIAS built a complete kitchen, trained Vietnamese, Bosnian, Nepalese/Bhutanese, Albanian, and Russian cooks, and will be able to serve high-quality, authentic, culturally specific cuisine to the seniors that attend. Additional groups, including Latino and Chinese, are planned for the near future.
“People need a place where they can feel at home,” says BIAS Co-founder and President Julia Ostropolsky, LCSW, “where they can socialize and maintain their cultural identity while also learning about the new culture and the new country they call their own. We have the ability to pair culturally specific senior groups with same-culture, same-language, US-trained professionals to help seniors adjust to American culture and maintain their independence while doing so.”
Thanks in part to the generous funding provided by the St. Louis Area Agency on Aging (SLAAA), BIAS was able to rent a 15-seat bus to help bring seniors to the center, many of whom would not otherwise have any means of transportation.
Older adults who participate in senior center programs can learn to manage and delay the onset of chronic disease. They also experience measurable improvements in their physical, social, spiritual, emotional, mental, and economic well-being. Senior Centers are especially important for aging refugees and immigrants due to the tendency to experience heightened isolation and suffering from previous war trauma and loss, which can exacerbate significant health-related concerns.
“We are going to bring people together and foster independence. Part of the mission of the Macklind International Senior Center is to help seniors maintain the dignity of self-determination for as long as possible. Our agency is able to address many of the needs that these seniors have, and now we have a beautiful, new location to serve them in.”