Lowering the barriers for ageing migrants

Chinese man
A Flinders conference will address barriers to care and services for ageing migrants (Photo by Shutterstock)

Ageing members of Australia’s ethnic communities frequently find that cultural and linguistic barriers adversely affect their access to legal, health and financial services, as well as their experiences of residential, hospital and palliative care.

The 3rd biennial Ageing in a Foreign Land conference organised by Flinders University will present research into the experiences of the ageing populations from various migrant backgrounds in Australia, including people from the Chinese, African, Greek and Italian ethnic communities.

The conference, to be opened by SA Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Ageing Zoe Bettison, will be held at Flinders at Tonsley from 24 to 26 June. The conference will see 60 papers presented and include a panel discussion. More than 130 delegates will attend.

As well as looking at ways to improve the competencies and skills of service providers and professionals who deal with older people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, researchers will present on issues that include elder abuse, falls prevention, homelessness, intergenerational interaction, spirituality and ageing well.

Linguistic and cultural barriers to understanding frequently extend beyond the realm of pure language, according to conference convenor Professor Michael Tsianikas of the LOGOS Australian Centre for Hellenic Language and Culture at Flinders.

Professor Tsianikas says that elderly migrants, many of whom are poorly educated, are often faced with unfamiliar concepts.

“You can translate a health information pamphlet into perfect Greek, but it may not be understandable to an elderly person,” he said. “For example, you cannot offer a health package to someone who does not understand what ‘package’ means in this context.”

Professor Tsianikas said another theme the conference will explore is the need for intergenerational education and interaction, and increasing participation of the community and volunteers in caring for the aged.

“No government can afford to provide all the necessary services, so the community needs to become involved in different ways – communities are the guardians of the future,” Professor Tsianikas says.

“Basic neighbourly support can be instrumental in avoiding very expensive institutionalisation – this is a principle that extends beyond the CALD sector to the whole ageing population in Australia.”

The presenting Australian academics and professionals from government agencies, NGOs and councils will be supplemented by speakers from the UK, India, Brazil and Thailand.

Keynote speaker Professor Christina Victor of the Brunel University in London will also hold a one-day seminar at Flinders and run another seminar with the Australian Association of Gerontology.

Sponsors of the conference include the Commonwealth Department of Social Services, Gaganis Brothers, the Maras Group, Olympic Industries, NDA Law, Coombs Barei, Aroma Cafe and St Basil’s Homes.

The full program, including abstracts, can be accessed here.

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