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More refugees over age 60 are coming to Arizona. This program helps them get settled

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Coverage of aging is supported in part by AARP Arizona

Phoenix is home to many refugees, including those who are over the age of 60. But imagine coming to a new country later in life, perhaps alone, and what that might be like.

There are a growing number of older refugees coming to Arizona. And for this population, it’s an enormous challenge to start a new life.

"We are talking about refugees who have been in the refugee camps some 20 years just waiting for the process to to go through," explains Nadia Cassanguir, who is with the Area Agency on Aging’s Mosaic Elder Refugee program, which serves refugees 60 and older.

"Also, you have to consider what they go through the wars, the trauma associated with that, and also the lack of medical care. And then also the culture shock," Cassanguir says.

Cassanguir says many refugees are now coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and Cuba.

"So we have those who are educated and those who are just not educated. For those who are educated, it's, you know, about the language, it's easy because they can make friends, they can quickly catch up with services, when you do a referral for them, they can just go ahead and do it," she says.

For those who don't, acclimating is challenging.

"So the Mosaic program was built to provide socialization, because our refugees were just isolated in their home and they didn’t have friends to see; they didn’t know what to do," Cassanguir says.

The Mosaic program offers case management, English classes and support for those looking to gain citizenship.

Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.
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