*People 100 Years or Older
At the end of July, I had the privilege of interviewing Basun and Karna, two of Sioux Falls’ oldest refugees served by LSS Center for New Americans. Deo Rai, a direct service worker who specifically serves older refugees in Sioux Falls, introduced me and provided interpretation services. On our drive to meet Basun and Karna, I asked Deo what were some of the biggest challenges older refugees face. Transportation, not being able to drive places themselves or have relatives who drive, can be difficult and affects older refugees’ social life as they can be confined to their residences. Providing home care can be difficult as regulations state that a caregiver cannot be someone “from the same roof,” meaning someone who lives with them, like a family member. Deo also mentioned a language barrier; though spoke against a cultural barrier. “Some people say a cultural barrier, but that is not so. Refugees can adapt. We all know adaptation is important. It is the language that is a barrier.”
Basun is 109 years old. When we arrived at her family’s house, she was resting, so her daughter, Lachi, and granddaughter, Man, spoke with us. Basun was born in 1905 in Bhutan where she and her family were farmers. She spent eighty-seven years in Bhutan farming and giving birth to ten children, three of whom died. I asked Man, if she knew how Basun felt about having to leave Bhutan to settle in refugee camps in Nepal. “She was happy to leave Bhutan. She saw torture, persecution, and discrimination there.” Basun spent eighteen years in the refugee camps before being resettled to the United States in 2010.
I asked the family what they felt were the biggest challenges for Basun as an older refugee and they expressed Basun’s deep desire to have the family close together. Right now, Basun’s children are spread out all over the world residing in Bhutan; India; Nepal; Atlanta, Georgia; Houston, Texas; and Sioux Falls. “She wants family reunification, but it is not happening. She loves to talk with family members. It is comforting to talk with family.” Man said Basun’s health was good and she was walking, talking, and sleeping. “She talks and remembers…all into the night. She recalls the past often.”
Join us again next week to meet another one of Sioux Falls’ oldest and newest residents, Karna, who is 104 years old!