Australia’s first research on ageing migrants from new and emerging communities, such as those from Sudan and Myanmar, highlights the need for better digital literacy training to access information on aged care services.

The government also needs to provide quicker access to interpreters and intermediaries to interact with members of the community, some of whom have experienced refugee camps, National Seniors interim CEO and research director John McCallum says.

John McCallum
Professor John McCallum

The research, based on a focus group of 20 people representing Victorian communities from the Horn of Africa, Europe, the Philippines, Central and South America and the Thai-Burma border, also identified a need for more support for ageing in place with additional transport services and community centres.

It was co-ordinated by National Seniors Research in conjuction with Australian Unity Home Care Services and carried out in Melbourne in May.

Common threads

Language and cultural barriers, lack of support for the primarily female carers, problems accessing  home services and isolation were common threads to emerge from the research.

Professor McCallum said previous research had focused on the issues faced by ageing migrants from mainly European and Asian countries.

“Like previous migrants, recent migrants also face language and cultural barriers that affect their ability to access the aged care sector and this is often worse if they’ve spent time in refugee camps,” he said in a statement.

“It can also mean people endure even longer delays than others because they have to wait for interpreting services to be available.”

Cultural issues for NEC included the importance of ageing in place and dying at home and resistance and taboos around placing an elderly family member in aged care.

“The difficulties of caring for a family member at home can be immense for women, because they bear most of the responsibility,” Professor McCallum said.

“This is especially evident if that person has dementia, and isolation and the anxiety of leaving them at home alone are big problems.

“Even if the family member is prepared to go into residential care, there can be major problems adjusting to the language, culture and even the food if it’s not what they are used to eating in their own community.”

Digital technology a new challenge

The research said a similar study of new immigrants published 28 years ago had found the same problems including language and cultural barriers, burdens on women and access to services in the home. However a new problem was now the need for digital literacy to access benefits and services.

Digital issues included the cost of digital technology and being able to navigate English websites.

“Many participants advocated for grassroots, bottom-up solutions to the issues experienced in their communities, and some were already actively involved in supporting their own people, as well as CALD people generally,” the report said.

“These community leaders are willing to support their elderly with aged care access, but they need more information and resources to do so.”

Victoria’s New and Emerging Communities

  • Filipino 38,000
  • Salvadoran 3,124
  • Ethiopian 11,792
  • South-Sudanese 7,699
  • Karen 3000

Source: Dealing with Diversity report, 2018

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