When Amy Met Ai Jen Liu

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Ai Jen didn’t trust Western medicine treatments for managing his diabetes and, because of certain cultural barriers, he was reluctant to ask for help. After getting an initial blood sugar test at VNSNY’s Chinatown Community Center, where our Chinatown Naturally Occurring Retirement Community program is headquartered, Ai Jen grew to trust: VNSNY nurse, Amy Mung, and social worker, Hing-Lin (Helen) Sit, both of whom continue to help him monitor his diet, exercise and medication.

Launched in August, the Chinatown Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Community program (NNORC) serves a 22-block area in Chinatown. From our Chinatown Community Center, located in the heart of the neighborhood, the

Visiting Nurse Service of New York offers myriad services to seniors, including testing blood sugar and blood pressure; discussing health-related issues, from Medicare Part D to diabetes and heart disease; assisting with medications; administering flu shots; and teaching English lessons. The Center also provides a place for seniors to get together with friends and neighbors, keep in touch with each other’s lives and discuss current events. In addition, our NNORC nurses and social workers make visits to homebound seniors to assess their individual needs and provide care.

Ai Jen, who has lived in Chinatown for nearly forty years, came in to the Chinatown Community Center last year for a free blood-glucose screening. He knew he had diabetes and even had a glucometer to measure blood sugar, but he didn’t know how to draw his own blood and had long abandoned his medication.

“Before he came to the Center, Ai Jen didn’t know very much about his diabetes. His primary care doctor discussed his condition with him, but because he was very busy, he didn’t give many details,” says Amy, the director of our Chinatown Community Services. “Now, Ai Jen is much better informed about his medical condition. We consider ourselves teachers and we take the time to explain things, so he’s built up a sense of trust in us. He even brought a friend over to get tested.”

“I just want to be healthy, then I’ll be happy,” says Ai Jen, speaking in Mandarin. “The most important thing is not money, it’s good health.”

Ai Jen is one of thousands of seniors who are growing old in the Chinatown community, where cultural and language barriers can sometimes stand in the way of maintaining good health. “We want to make Chinatown a great place to grow old,” says Helen, who helps Ai Jen with health and other personal issues, such as his approaching retirement. “These seniors know what’s going on with their bodies. They can feel it. And they know when something works, like the way we care for them. Sometimes, they just need a little reassurance.”


For information on VNSNY's services call 1-800-675-0391. To learn more about our Chinese program, click here.