Stereotypes don’t apply

A new report offers evidence that you just can’t group all older CALD people under the one umbrella.

By Yasmin Noone

A new report from National Seniors Australia has challenged the theory that all older people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds face the double disadvantage of age and ethnicity.

The recently released report, The Ageing Experience of Australians from Migrant Backgrounds, shows that ethnicity can actually help some older people adjust to the psycho-social and physical constraints of ageing, although this varies from CALD group to group.

For example, the research found that older Greeks and Italians living in Australia are less likely to go into institutional care than Australian-born seniors because they have stronger family and community networks.

Making up the two largest groups of older CALD Australians, Greeks and Italians are also expected to stay married well into the golden years of life, maintain a strong relationship with their children and grandchildren, fall into the lower income group, and are most likely to need assistance with daily living activities as they age.

And although many older Greeks and Italians living in Australia are not generally as involved in English speaking community activities (compared to Australian-born seniors), involvement in family-focused activities provides them with a great sense of purpose and helps them to age productively.

In a sharp contrast however, the report also found that the ageing experience of older adults of western and eastern European origin were actually more similar to those in the Australian-born group and those older adults from the English-speaking countries, particularly in their living arrangements with family.

“There are also differences among older people from the Asian countries by country of origin,” the report stated.

“While they are all more likely to be living at home with family, many older people from China and Vietnam may also be more dependent on their family because they do not speak English well and have lower income.

“Older adults from China and other northeast Asian countries are more likely to be involved in paid work and this may be related to some of them being business migrants. Older people from Malaysia, Philippines, India and Sri Lanka are generally more proficient in English, have more education and higher income.”

The research put forward that the low income levels of older people from some Asian countries and the Middle East means that they are likely to be dependent on government income support.

“Their circumstances may be related to their migration or personal histories associated with country of origin rather than ethnic or cultural factors. The findings suggest that the older adults from these countries and regions are likely to be more dependent on the public health and welfare systems, because of poorer health and lower income, even though they may have family support at home.”

The report was based on data from the 2006 census. But according to National Seniors’ general manager of policy and research, Peter Matwijiw, these findings have never been extracted before.

“This report provides a detailed insight into the demographics of CALD Australians as well as assessing factors such as personal income, living arrangements, home ownership, level of education, English proficiency, their involvement in paid work and other factors,’’ Matwijiw said.

“The results were very different dependent on ethnic background and cultural factors but overall we found that even whilst most have lived in Australia for more than 30 years, they are not faring as well as those born in Australia in terms of social and economic wellbeing.”

Mr Matwijiw believes the report’s findings clearly show how different one CALD group is from another. Therefore, it is wrong for ageing policies to group the needs of a vast range of older people – with various nationalities and cultures together – under the title of ‘CALD’. Instead, he said, ageing polices and aged care practices should recognise difference and individuality and respond with cultural sensitivity, accordingly.

“When you talk about the [CALD group], there are actually many different groups of people within and that has implications.

“What’s being called for is more than just translation and interpreting services but cultural awareness and sensitivity training, and an appreciation that everyone is an individual and should be treated accordingly.

“Our systems should also take these differences into account and begin to respond to them.”

To read the report, click here.

Tags: ageing, cald, migrant, national-seniors-australia,

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