Ageing black and Asian communities: CARDI blog
- Republic of Ireland
Little is understood about the unique challenges faced by the ageing population of black and Asian ethnic minorities in Ireland, North and South. Yet these small older populations are growing according to the most recent censuses in Northern Ireland (NI) and the Republic of Ireland (ROI), writes Conor Breen, CARDI Policy Officer:
Northern Ireland has a total of 579 people of Asian descent over the age of 65, with 42% being Chinese, 40% Indian and 8% Pakistani (NISRA, 2012). There are 46 people in NI identifying as from African, Caribbean or other Black ethnic groups and 192 others. Thus, ethnic minorities represent a very small percentage of people over the age of 65, 0.3% (NISRA, 2012). In the total population, these ethnic minorities represent 1.7% of the population.
Among these minorities, academic or professional qualifications appear to be scant. Of the 193 people of Asian descent in NI over the age of 75, 64% have no qualifications at all.
Older ethnic minorities in NI have broadly the same level of self-reported health as the white population as can be seen in Figure 1 below (Source: NISRA, 2012).
Republic of Ireland
There are 244 people from a Black ethnic group over the age of 65 in ROI, 198 Chinese people over the age of 65, 513 older people from other Asian backgrounds and 766 people of mixed ethnicity or from other ethnic groups (Central Statistics Office, 2012).
With a total population over 65 of 535,000, the Census results show that just 0.3% of older people in ROI are from an ethnic minority. In the total population, ethnic minorities represent 4.2%. These small numbers are growing, however. For example, the 2006 Census showed that there were 147 African people aged 65+, increasing by 65% to 242 in 2011.
As in NI, there are very few differences in health status among the over 65s across groups. As seen in Figure 2 below, Asian nationalities report slightly fewer people in the very good or good health categories and slightly more in the fair or bad health categories.
There is little research currently available on ageing Black and Asian ethnic minority groups in Ireland.
A 2013 Joseph Rowntree Foundation review found evidence to suggest that the lack of recognition of overseas skills and qualifications, immigration status, language difficulties and problems in negotiating support services all serve as obstacles to improving the financial circumstances of ethnic minorities (Wallace et al., 2013).
In ROI, Pierce (2003) found that not speaking English was a major barrier to participating in society. This situation was compounded for older people from minority ethnic groups who experienced difficulties learning new languages. Maintaining links with people from the same minority ethnic background is particularly important for providing asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants with a sense of security and belonging (Pierce, 2003).
International research shows that for older ethnic minorities, community engagement within groups and with the broader community is important. Among a sample of older African-American men living in Detroit, community engagement was found to affect both the well-being of participants and their positive perception of their neighbourhood (Tiernan et al., 2013). A US study among older Korean people living in Chicago found that the development of ethnic businesses and the use of a “cultural broker” to act as a bridge between the minority group and wider social networks was important (Shin, 2014).
Older people from ethnic minorities may have different views on growing older and the ageing process. In the UK, research published in 2009 on perceptions of active ageing showed that the ethnically diverse sample respondents were less likely to define active ageing as having physical health and fitness, and were less likely to rate themselves as ageing actively, than more homogeneous sample respondents (Bowling, 2009). The impact of ageing (in terms of health and support needs) happens at a comparatively younger age among many minority communities (Butt & O'Neill, 2004).
The experiences of older ethnic minorities around the globe indicate that accessing healthcare services is a key challenge for ageing populations. Australian research shows that disparities in accessing healthcare services and addressing healthcare needs are evident among ethnic minorities, particular older people in those minorities (Al Abed, Davidson, & Hickman, 2013).
Palliative care is an area where racial and ethnic disparities can exist in the type of desired treatment and the availability of high-quality palliative care that meets the varied needs of older adults of all races and ethnicities is a priority (Johnson, 2013).
As little research has been conducted, consequently little is understood about older black and Asian minority groups. Yet these older minority groups are growing in number. Policies and practices, particularly in the area of health and access to health services, will in the future need to properly reflect the specific needs of an increasingly diverse older population.
Al Abed, N., Davidson, P., & Hickman, L. (2013). Healthcare needs of older Arab migrants: a systematic review. Journal of clinical nursing, Dec 12. doi: 10.1111/jocn.12476.
Bowling, A. (2009). Perceptions of active ageing in Britain: divergences between minority ethnic and whole population samples. Age and Ageing, Volume 38, Issue 6, Pp. 703-710.
Butt, J., & O'Neill, A. (2004). Black and minority ethnic older people's views on research findings. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Central Statistics Office. (2012). This is Ireland - Highlights from Census 2011. Dublin: Central Statistics Office.
Johnson, K. (2013). Racial and ethnic disparities in palliative care. Journal of palliative medicine, Nov;16(11):1329-34.
NISRA. (2012). Census 2011 - Population and Household Estimates for Northern Ireland. Belfast: NISRA.
Pierce, M. (2003). Minority Ethnic People with Disabilities in Ireland. Dublin: The Equality Authority.
Shin, J. (2014). Living Independently as an Ethnic Minority Elder: A Relational Perspective on the Issues of Aging and Ethnic Minorities. American Journal Of Community Psychology, April 11.
Tiernan, C., Lysack, C., Neufeld, S., & Lichtenberg, P. (2013). Community engagement: an essential component of well-being in older African-American adults. International journal of ageing & human development, 77(3):233-57.
Wallace, A., McAreavey, R., & Atkin, K. (2013). Poverty and Ethnicity in Northern Ireland. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.