Photo story:

Moving across the world to grow old

Photography by: Floor Flurij & Myra Iqbal

Parween and Ali Hasan moved to Midwood, Brooklyn from Pakistan at the end of 2014. 


They are two of a growing number of immigrants who are moving to New York in later life.

Both Ali and Parween have had long, accomplished professional lives.


Parween is an expert on developing fair testing standards in schools. She consulted with international organizations working in Pakistan until recently.

Ali is an engineer and professor, who developed an international exchange program which connected Pakistani scientists with those in other countries.

The main reason for the Hasans' decision to come to New York is that Ali has developed a cognitive impairment, leading him to lose some of his short-term memory and his ability to be independent.

Parween realized that they should sell their beloved house and grounds in Karachi when people began to ask her who would take care of them both if something happened to her as she aged.


Parween and Ali also moved to New York because they love the city - its different cultures, its music and museums, its streets.


“I am just fascinated by this city,” Parween says.

Their first year in the U.S. was filled with getting to know the neighborhood, finding the right doctors and traveling almost constantly back and forth to Boston to help care for Parween’s brother who became seriously ill.


They have yet to feel a part of the community – or to volunteer or work - as they had hoped.


"I have a desire to continue my work or to generally help people fulfill the potential which they have, but I don’t know how to go about it," Parween said.

Parween, who misses her own garden and grounds, has found comfort in taking walks past the well-tended gardens and homes of her neighbors.


“This is my joy,” she says. “I can tell people this is my adopted garden.”

Within a few months of moving in with their son, Parween and Ali bought a one-bedroom co-op apartment in Midwood directly below his.


Even though renovations have been stalled, and it is a change from their large home in Karachi, just knowing they have a place, and plants to water, has given them comfort.

At the end of 2015, Parween and Ali returned to Pakistan for their first time in a year for a short visit and then headed to Melbourne, Australia to visit their daughter, her husband and their only granddaughter.


They hope their return in the spring of 2016 will root them further in New York.


“We are a family of nomads,” Parween said.  “I still feel in transition, but that’s life.”


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© 2015 by Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health