As Asians migrate, so does elder care

The South Cove Manor Rehabilitation Center is moving from Boston to a new building in Quincy.
The South Cove Manor Rehabilitation Center is moving from Boston to a new building in Quincy.Jessica Bartlett for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

Floor-to-ceiling windows brought light into the expansive South Cove Manor Rehabilitation Center, where patterned carpets lead to secluded rooms nestled in each corner of the Quincy building.

After 17 months of construction, this elder care facility geared toward Asians is ready to begin accepting the 141 seniors who will call the space home.

“It’s wonderful. It’s amazing . . . it’s all what we hoped it would be, and I think that South Cove is now embarking on the next chapter in its life,” said Helen Chin Schlichte, the center’s cofounder, president emeritus, and cochairwoman of the capital campaign.

The brick building at 288 Washington St. is a short drive from South Cove Manor’s original site in Boston’s Chinatown, where it first began providing elder care with a multilingual staff and Asian cuisine and activities in 1985.


Symbolically, however, the center has come a long way. The $33.7 million structure, which will begin accepting clients in May after a ribbon-cutting on Tuesday, will now offer short-term rehabilitation in addition to long-term care. More broadly, the move represents the trend of Asian services and populations expanding into Boston’s suburbs.

“It’s been changing and building steadily since the ’80s,” said John Brothers, executive director for Quincy Asian Resources Inc., which provides cultural and educational opportunities to Asian-Americans. “It’s accelerating. It’s clear [that] South Cove Manor is just the latest example.”

According to US Census data, Asian population growth in some suburban areas has outpaced Boston. From 2000 to 2010, Quincy’s Asian population jumped 64 percent to 22,174 people, compared with 25 percent growth in Boston, to 55,235, during the same timeframe.

Of the 10 Massachusetts communities with the largest Asian populations in 2010, nine showed increases of 25 percent or more since 2000. Malden’s, for example, saw an uptick of 52 percent, to 11,971, while Lexington had an increase of 89 percent, to 6,240.


“As new immigrants tend to come to our region and nation, they tend to find enclaves in cities. Over time, as they get more established, they spread out to suburban locations,” said Holly St. Clair, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s director of data services, who has analyzed Asian-American settlement data.

William Frey, a demographer and a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, said Asian-American migration to the suburbs is a national trend, and occurs for all the same reasons people initially moved from cities to the suburbs — upward mobility.

Cost is also a major factor.

“Traditionally in Chinese homes there are extended family . . . and if you’re looking at housing in Chinatown or even in inner-core cities, it’s so expensive that you can’t manage to get a big enough place to put everyone in it,” said Janelle Chan, executive director at the Boston-based Asian Community Development Corp., which develops affordable housing in large Asian-American communities.

The search for affordable housing has pushed prospective homeowners to the suburbs. And as the Asian community has grown, so, too, have commensurate services and businesses.

“Chinatown businesses are not coming to Quincy. . . Small businesses are looking for opportunity,” said state Representative Tackey Chan, a Democrat from Quincy.

Compared with Boston’s 8 percent of Asian-owned businesses and the state’s 4.5 percent average, Quincy’s was 18 percent, 2007 Census figures show.

According to Brothers, the proliferation of services in Quincy has facilitated growth farther from Chinatown. While Braintree’s population rose by about 1,900 from 2000 to 2010, the Asian population grew by 1,700, to 2,701, Census data show. Canton’s Asian population rose by 695, to 1,319 residents, though the overall population grew by 946, to 21,561.


“Many people who live in Quincy move out to these towns and are being replaced by new immigrants,” Brothers said.

The influx of immigrants, plus the aging of first-generation immigrants already in Boston and Quincy, is promising for South Cove Manor’s longevity.

According to South Cove Manor board chairman Richard Lui, those numbers are further aided by the immigration of extended families to the States.

“It’s natural for extended families to come, the elderly to come, and as a result you’ve got growing populations in multiple generations,” Lui said.

In light of those factors, expansion was necessary. Moving to Quincy made sense due to its proximity to Boston, access to public transportation, and a growing population of seniors, said Richard Wong, South Cove Manor’s chief executive officer.

It didn’t hurt that a quarter of the staff and many of the clients’ families also live in Quincy.

Moving to Quincy also solved the organizations’s biggest obstacle to expansion — finding space.

For eight years, executives searched for land that would permit an updated nursing care layout, which would replace the hospital-like setting with a “neighborhood” approach, with rooms clustered around different common areas.

“We wanted to expand in Boston, but we couldn’t, just because of what we wanted to build and the lack of space to do that,” Wong said. “We found enough land in . . . Quincy that allowed us to build.”


The new facility, which is 2½ times larger than its Chinatown predecessor and has 41 more beds, also gives residents more privacy and amenities.

While South Cove Manor’s operations will be completely moved, the organization isn’t abandoning Boston. Members intend to maintain an office at the old location, now owned by the Boston Chinese Evangelical Church. The staff hopes to refer Boston-area residents to Quincy.

“We will still have a Boston office . . . We will service the Asian families and their elderly in Boston,” Wong said. “It won’t be operations like the current South Cove, but we didn’t want to leave the community without a resource.”

Jessica Bartlett can be reached at jessica.may.bartlett@gmail.
. Follow her on Twitter @jessmayb3.