Hongmei Tong is an Assistant Professor of the School of Social Work, MacEwan University. Dr. Tong received her Master of Law in Sociology from Fudan University, and Master of Social Work from The University of Hong Kong. After several years of teaching social work in Fudan University in Shanghai, China, Hongmei came to Canada for PhD study and completed her PhD degree in Social Work at University of Calgary in 2013. Dr. Tong’s research and practice interests mainly center on social exclusion and integration of aging immigrants, gerontological social work education, palliative and end-of-life care, mental health and interventions for newcomers. Her research is based upon a social determinants of health framework.
Political participation: A comparison between Canadian-born and Immigrant Older Adults in Canada
Introduction: Participation in political activities is part of broader social, economic, and political integration processes and has been linked to the promotion of self-esteem, wellbeing, life meaning and satisfaction of older adults. A range of socio-demographic and contextual factors shape political participation experiences among older adults. However, the understanding of the differences between Canadian-born and immigrant older adults in political participation and the correlates is scant. This study aimed to answer the research questions: 1) what are the differences in political participation between Canadian-born and immigrant older adults in Canada? 2) what are the differences in the correlates of political participation between these two groups?
Method: Secondary quantitative data analysis of 2013 General Social Survey (GSS) data was used. Political participation was presented by voting in federal, provincial, municipal or local elections and participation in other 11 types of political activities. Correlates examined included socio-demographic variables, physical and mental health, identification with Canadian values, sense of belonging to local community, and political interests. Binary analysis and multivariate regression were used.
Results: Immigrant older adults, when compared to Canadian born older adults, are less likely to engage in political activities. For older Canadians, being younger, being male, better mental health, and Christian faith are associated with voting behaviors or other types of civic engagement, but these variables are not significant for the immigrants. However, higher level of education, more social contacts, and better physical health, sense of community belonging, Canadian value, and political interests are significant correlates for both groups. Visible minority status has negative association with voting behaviors of immigrants.
Conclusion: Policy makers and service providers should consider complex links between socio-contextual factors and civic engagement among diverse older adults, so that socio-culturally appropriate programs could be designed to facilitate civic participation by older adults of diverse background.