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JOHN McNAMEE reports

A startling new report claims that people from migrant backgrounds who may have been living in the country for more than 30 years, are not as well off as the native-born Australian.

The report, from the National Seniors Australia (NSA) Productive Ageing Centre, also found that aged Australians from such countries as Lebanon, Turkey and Vietnam have lower levels of social and economic wellbeing than other groups from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

It also revealed that older Australians originally from Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, India and Sri Lanka are better educated and have better incomes than other CALD groups.

The report, titled The Ageing Experience of Australians from Migrant Backgrounds, found that older Australians of Italian and Greek origins make up the two largest birthplace and language groups of CALD background.

NSA general manager policy and research, Peter Matwijiw, said the report was based on data from the 2006 census and highlighted a large and significant group of older Australians from CALD groups.

“Australia is a country built on immigration but it’s less well known that the migrant population has an older age structure than the Australian-born population”, Mr Matwijiw said.

“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.

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

“Interestingly we found that older people from southern and eastern European and Asian countries were all more likely to be living at home and not in an institutional care facility than migrants from the English-speaking or western European countries and the Australian-born aged. We expect this is probably a result of cultural reasons,” he said.

Mr Matwijiw said one in five Australians aged 50 and over were born in a non-English speaking country.

“There needs to be better ways to increase English proficiency in older adults from non-English speaking backgrounds, including those who have lived in Australia for many years.

“English proficiency among CALD older adults declines with increasing age and women are less likely than men to speak English well.

“We know that many dementia patients lose their ability to speak English and revert to their native language. This also raises some important points about whether health and other services need to be better tailored to meet the needs of CALD Australians,” Mt Matwijiw said.

He said it was now time to look at the findings through different policy and cultural lenses to help older Australians from various backgrounds to improve their ageing experiences.

Mr Matwijiw said that there was just not enough detailed research carried out in this country on the plight of the ageing migrant and he hoped his report would highlight some of the issues involved.

Meanwhile, the news for Australia’s struggling pensioners doesn’t get any better…the basic necessities are definitely becoming more expensive.

The NSA organisation reports that the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index (PBLCI) rose faster than the CPI in the March quarter confirming that cost of living pressures are falling more heavily upon older consumers, particularly pensioners, when compared to the general community.

The largest increases within the PBLCI were for food (+3.3%), transportation (+3.6%), housing (+1.7%) and health (+6.7%),

“These commodity forms are clearly necessities – not something that older Australians can cut back on,” NSA chief executive Michael O’Neill said.

“The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures confirm the pressure pensioners and older Australians on fixed incomes are feeling and it’s not going to be any easier,” he said.

The ABS pointed to the Queensland floods and Cyclone Yasi for increases in fruit and vegetables particularly, higher petrol prices leading to more expensive transport and big hikes in electricity and rents forcing up housing costs.

The NSA said that a 2009 ANU study found that about 11 per cent of Australians aged 55 and over had to either dispose of assets or take out a loan in the previous 12 months to meet ongoing expenses— specifically because their current income was not sufficient.

“People will be chewing into their savings and having to make difficult choices about what they can and cannot afford,” Mr O’Neill said.

“With energy prices expected to soar even further this year, Governments at all levels need to look at how to ease the increasing cost of living for our pensioners and self-funded retirees on limited fixed incomes,” he said.

In a separate major initiative, northern NSW residents living with a chronic illness will be given the opportunity to boost their independence and monitor their condition as the result of a new partnership between Feros Care and the Northern NSW Local Health District.

According to the local health service, Feros Care is an innovative aged care service in northern NSW and south-east Queensland which is set to take their telehealth expertise into the homes of people living with diabetes, cardiac and respiratory disease.

  Between now and December  this year, up to 15 people at any one time in the Tweed and Murwillumbah areas will be part of the trial service using the monitoring system for six to eight weeks.

Each home will be set up with telehealth equipment, including blood pressure monitors, finger pulse oximeters, thermometers, weighing scales, and a glucose monitor, depending on the patient’s needs.

Feros Care CEO Jennene Buckley said: “Our trained telehealth nurses will liaise with the individual to help assess their general wellbeing and vital signs in the comfort of their own home and in collaboration with the patient’s GP.”



  1. Frank McQuade

    John McNamee.

    When I saw the headline of the Go 55s newspaper OLDER MIGRANTS DOING IT TOUGH my first reaction was “Oh yeah, what about us”? My intent was to stick it right up you until I began to read the story and found you referred to all the suffering pensioners in Australia.

    I’m certainly not against migrants. My parents came from Scotland in the late 20s, both sadly departed. They raised three children. Mum and dad worked very hard, my dad as a laborer, mum a cleaner then managing hotels. They worked so hard that they were able to buy their own corner shop until my exhausted mum suffered a collapse and they had to sell the store.

    My sisters and I had a tough life as children but we were fortunate that we had caring, loving parents. We never went without and at the end of each week, dad would reward us with a bob that enabled us to go to the Saturday arvo flicks at the ASTOR theatre on Glebe Road and buy a Hoadley’s Violet Crumble Bar or a packet of Smith chips. Those days the chips were unsalted and the manufacturers would insert some salt in a little blue bag. After the movie finished my mates and I would race down to Harold Park trotting track, climb the fence and watch the last trot or dog race and wait for the gate to open. We would rush inside and scavenge around looking for empty beer glasses and take them back to the bar where we would be paid a halfpenny for each glass. Memories light the corners of my mind, misty waters colour memories of the way we were.

    Back to your story. I often wonder if Journo’s really know how hard it is for the average pensioner. Do you really care or are we just another story that puts food on your table?

    As far as Canberra is concerned those morons wouldn’t care if all pensioners submitted themselves to another Jamestown where they could administer the poison and watch us drop off the planet. I have been a labor voter all my life until now. This is the worst government in my memory, certainly the worst prime minister with the greatest bunch of nongs that sit in parliament. The “NODDIES” I call them. We have only got two more years of them thank God and we will get them. PENSIONERS NEVER FORGET.

    If you ever want to do a story on a big swing band I have that story. Ten years ago I formed a band made up of musicians from the 40s, 50s and 60s. These gentlemen were the legendary musicians from the television era of variety shows and the big dance halls. Most are still part of the band. Some have gone to that big concert hall in the sky. We have been fairly successful over the years appearing on Kerrie Anne’s show on Channel 9, the ABC Radio Christmas show, various corporate gigs, many clubs and for the past four years been the featured band for Seniors Week at Palm Grove, Darling Harbour playing to enormous crowds.

    The band: The KINGS OF SWING BIG BAND.

    Here’s another story for you. Two weeks ago I was the guest speaker at a PROBUS meeting. I spoke of the dance halls that used to play a huge role in the lives of today’s senior citizens. I was told it was the largest gathering the club had for a speaker in several years. At the conclusion of my forty five minute speech I had fifteen minutes of question time. When I stepped down from the stage I was surrounded by several members of the audience who thanked me for bringing the wonderful memories of their youth back to them. There were three couples in attendance that actually met at some of the halls and later married and were now grandparents.

    Mr McNamee please keep your story moving on behalf of pensioners. HELP!!!!

    Frank McQuade.

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