Older Minority-Group Migrants in Rich Countries

In most developed countries, many surveys of the health and treatment needs of minority group older migrants are now undertaken by health and social services agencies, which of course have privileged access to their patients, and have the resources needed to translate questionnaires and employ bilingual interviewers. The findings of such surveys are largely descriptive and policy and practice oriented, and have been criticized as too ready to generalize about very diverse groups, for example in assuming that all minority groups have stronger family support networks than the host population. Overall, however, their findings confirm that the older migrants from peasant and near subsistence agricultural origins, who in the reception countries have been employed mainly in low skilled and low paid jobs, have high rates of sickness, poverty, social isolation and discon nection from the welfare system, and low entitlements to social security.

Academic studies have added understanding of older migrants' integration with the host societies and of the influence of the destination societies on their values, identities, and views. A particularly delicate matter is any disparity between their expectations and actual experience of intergenerational relations, and more specifically of the likely support and care from their children if and when they become dependent. Studies at opposite ends of the Earth, in Detroit, Michigan, and Brisbane, Queensland, have reached similar conclusions not only about the insensitivity of services to migrants' cultural differences and their resulting exclusion, but also about ambivalences and confusions in identities and values. Many Middle Eastern migrants in Detroit left their homes as very young adults and did not care for their parents when they became old. As the migrants reach their own old age, some have views about what their children 'should' do for them that are idealized and normative, but most are also keenly aware that their wish to be closely involved with their children and grandchildren is inconsistent with the latter's adoption of American ways, material ambitions, and need to work long hours. The cultural gap between the generations is in some cases a source of serious distress and dismay.

Turning to older Chinese migrants in Brisbane, Ip, Lui and Chui's (2007: 733) found that ''social isolation and feelings of loneliness and confinement were common and particularly acute among womenyand exacerbated by increasing dependence upon their adult children for transport. y Inadequate support from family members made it more difficult for them to take part in social activities or to access the amenities provided by the city for older people in general.'' Paradoxically, because of the common belief that Chinese older parents are usually well looked after, especially in middle class families, the predicament of many was unnoticed. In many developed countries, because Chinese immigration is long established, the population has many older people and they tend to be more dispersed than other migrant groups. Many came to work in restaurants and fast food shops, where they worked long hours in poor physical con ditions; and many men never learnt the local language or married and in old age had little informal support. Across the world, Chinese expatriate communities have generated their own charitable welfare associations that provide vital links to the most isolated older migrants with formal health and social service agencies.