One third of older Australians are in an unfamiliar space
MIGRANTS from non-English speaking backgrounds now make up between 30 and 35 per cent of Australians aged 65 and over.
That's a significant number of people whose ageing issues are both common and unique.
For many, not having role models around them as they grow older in Australia presents one of the most complex problems explains chair of the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia (FECCA), Mary Patetsos.
"Some of them have been here for the majority of their life," Ms Patetsos said.
Migrants have been arriving into Australia since the turn of the century; many of them came from Afghanistan, eastern and southern Europe, filling jobs in major infrastructure projects like the Snowy Mountains scheme, the Sydney Opera House and railways.
"They have often arrived as very young children or 10 or 20-year-olds," Ms Patetsos added.
"They grow up, study, go to work, raise families and then find themselves at 84 or 86 ageing in a country they have migrated to.
"They aren't growing in the village or town or place that they have seen other people growing old in. They are really making their way in a new place."
Where these ageing Australians find they are suffering with dementia or they aren't regularly using English in their everyday activities, regressing back to their mother tongue restricts their ability to deal with the range of ageing issues and community services.
This is where Aged Care providers have a critical role in overcoming language barriers.
Some CALD communities are of such size that they have been able to establish ethno-specific Aged Care facilities, but there is much more support required for migrants living outside of the catchment area of these facilities.
FECCA are working to increase the profile of these ageing Australians.
"Once you need support, you need to know the system can look after you so we need to ensure that providers understand that responsibility, that they understand the need to communicate, use translators and interpreted materials and perhaps employ bilingual staff," Ms Patetsos said.
She has noticed some facilities have actively sought the employment of staff fluent in the language prevalent within their clients. Others have encouraged existing staff to learn basic words to help them communicate with their CALD clients.
Diversity in the Aged Care workforce is another initiative being rolled out by some providers.
"Not all of it is a burden," Ms Patetsos said.
She argues that bringing diversity to the Aged Care living space can benefit non-CALD residents. She also sees that the well-travelled Baby Boomers will be looking for more interesting experiences as they age.
"There are some wonderful examples where Greek or Italian or Italy food, depending on dietary needs, has been introduced into nursing homes and playing some easy games like Bocce and music; it can be fun for all residents," she added.
"Multiculturalism is an advantage for all of us as it makes our life more interesting. If we take it that way it will be less of burden and more of a joy.
"We also need to make sure consumers know their rights and are able to access My Aged Care. "We are always looking at ways to improve access."
Just by providing written materials in simple English will assist access by the CALD community as well as those in the broader community.