Everett Community College resource fair helps older immigrants with health advice

EVERETT — Ivan Beskrovnyy remembers having to jump through countless hoops to get the care he needed after suffering a heart attack in his native Ukraine.

Now a resident of Everett, the 83-year-old World War II veteran is grateful for the services he receives.

Beskrovnyy was one of about 350 people at the Everett Community College on Saturday who attended an annual resource fair for older immigrants.

The fair this year focused on healthy living, said Ramonda Sosa from the Senior Services of Snohomish County. Workshops and information on healthy eating, exercising and preventive medicine were available in eight different languages.

Organizations serving senior citizens are working hard to reach immigrants and refugees with limited English, Sosa said.

“I know it’s going to take some time to build a relationship, to build enough trust for them to feel comfortable,” she said.

Beskrovnyy’s health is good, but he had his blood pressure checked at the free health screening Saturday just in case.

Beskrovnyy and his wife followed their grown children to the U.S. almost five years ago. He plans to apply for citizenship soon, but poor English skills will make it difficult to pass the test.

“I’ve wanted to speak another language since I was a child,” Beskrovnyy said in Russian. “Then, life happened. First the war, then the family.”

He’s been trying to learn English since the family moved to the U.S., but age has taken a toll on his memory, Beskrovnyy said.

The Russian-language brochures he picked up will help him navigate the system better and be more self-sufficient.

“This is long overdue for the elderly who speak English as a second language,” said Van Dinh-Kuno, director of Refugee and Immigrant Services Northwest.

Dinh-Kuno was giving out lunch boxes at the fair, with a friendly smile for everyone.

Snohomish County is home to many older immigrants and refugees, she said. Some moved to the country with their grown children and struggle to learn English because of their age. Others came over decades ago but held jobs where English was not needed, such as working on assembly lines or sawing. They were too busy raising families and aged without having learned English, Dinh-Kuno said.

“These people are very, very isolated,” she said.

The fair included a cooking presentation in different languages. The meal of choice was quinoa with vegetables.

Newcomers who find American food different from that in their own countries need help navigating the grocery aisle, Dinh-Kuno said.

Inna Bryanskaya, 72, of Everett, and Lyubov Gerasimova, 74, of Lynnwood, attended the cooking workshop.

It was the second year the two went to the fair together, Gerasimova said in Russian. The women have been friends for years.

“We appreciate this kind of attention to seniors,” Bryanskaya said about the event.

More than 60 Russian and Ukrainian speakers attended the fair.

Other languages were Spanish, Cantonese, Tagalog, Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese and English.

For older Korean immigrants, it’s important to spend time as a group, said Sang Kyun Chong from the Korean-American Seniors Association of Snohomish County. Members meet regularly for karaoke nights and dancing, he said.

Sang served as a firefighter in Korea for many years. He currently volunteers with the Lynnwood Fire Department and the citizen police patrol. Sang translates fire safety presentations and crime prevention information into Korean.

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