The Journals of Gerontology

Gubernskaya, Zoya*, and Judith Treas


To identify diverse pathways to linguistic isolation (LI) and explain the differences in LI for older immigrants from different countries.

A demographic decomposition of LI was applied to 18 largest origin subgroups of foreign-born, ages 65 and older, in the 2010-2014 American Community Survey data.

LI varied from 12% for older Indians to 68% for older Ukrainians. Decomposition analysis identified 3 components: (a) Limited English proficiency (LEP); (b) Solitary living; and (c) Limited English of co-resident others. The relative contribution of components differed by country of origin, pointing to different pathways to LI. Older Mexicans have the highest LEP, but moderate LI due to infrequent solitary living and the English proficiency of co-resident others. Many Chinese and Vietnamese older adults are LI because they live with other LEP adults. Older Europeans’ common pathway to LI is solitary living.

Components of LI in ethnic communities can inform communication strategies for older LEP lacking access to critical information.

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* Denotes CSDA Associates, Affiliates, and Staff