ABSTRACT

The majority of older Chinese in the United States are immigrants. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 60.6% of Asian-Americans of all ages, and 71.0% of Asian-and Pacific Islander-Americans over age 65, are foreign-born (He, 2002). These demographics make it imperative for helping professionals to be sensitive to traditions that guide norms, values, expectations, attitudes, and behaviors in those who lived most of their life in another culture. This article looks specifically at Chinese traditional culture and older adults and seeks to describe how adherence to tradition in that age group might be measured. Existing measures of filial piety and acculturation do not tap into this dimension, most likely because of a limited Western understanding of Chinese culture. While both filial piety and acculturation provide very useful information, neither reflects the worldview of an elder who spent the majority of his or her life immersed in, and adhering to, an ancient culture. Measuring acculturation in particular reflects a Western bias because higher levels of change from indigenous to Western culture are usually considered positive. This article suggests that, when evaluating a Chinese elder, cultural sensitivity must include an understanding of the elder’s worldview and how it might exacerbate a problem or, hopefully, contribute to a solution. Green (1998) describes cultural sensitivity in a multi-ethnic society as being open, alert, accepting, and flexible in relations with clients from diverse backgrounds. Other helping professionals go so far as to say that it is not possible to understand another person without clearly

understanding his/her traditional base (Ivey, Ivey, and Simek-Morgan, 1997; Sue, Ivey, and Pedersen, 1996). More specifically, Duan and Wang (2000) proposed that, by not considering cultural demands, any lasting and effective change for Chinese clients could be precluded. It follows, then, that helping professionals can benefit from accepting the notion of individual worldviews. A worldview can be described as the ways that a person perceives his/her self in relation to the world and how those perceptions affect thoughts, decisions, behavior, and interpretation of events (Sue, 1981). Thus, developing a measure of tradition, from the perspective of the older person, could prove useful to understanding the relationship between adherence to tradition and various psychosocial outcomes.