Journal maps intersection of immigration and aging

February 26, 2020

A new special issue of the journal The Gerontologist from The Gerontological Society of America explores how contemporary trends in immigration, migration, and refugee movement affect how people age and how societies care for aging people.

Under the issue title "Immigration and Aging," the 16 included papers come from seven countries: Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the U.K, and the U.S. Im/migrant groups studied come from across the globe and from within different communities.

"The papers ... address the needs and perspectives of older adults who have experienced im/migration," wrote Suzanne Meeks, PhD, FGSA, the editor-in-chief of The Gerontologist, in her opening editorial. "They illustrate the rich variety of communities in which im/migrants live and the cultural and social ties that support and protect the well-being of older im/migrants despite disruptions inherent in relocating across national borders."

Three U.S. studies focused on Chinese immigrants; two used data from a large sample of Chinese immigrants in Chicago, Illinois, while one studied Chinese immigrants in Hawaii, which has its own cultural distinctness from other U.S. states. Two others focused on im/migrants from Mexico living in California, and a multistate study of Korean-Americans, respectively.

Elsewhere, in the Netherlands, researchers worked with im/migrants from Turkey, Morocco, Surinam, the Antilles, and Indonesia. Authors from the U.K. and Australia studied South Asian im/migrants in their countries. South Asians were also part of a Canadian study, which also included Muslim participants from East and North Africa and the Middle East. The papers also included studies of European migrants from Italy, Spain, and Portugal to Switzerland, and, within Germany, historical "migrants" from East Germany to contemporary, unified Germany.

"Trends in migration, immigration, and refugee movement and resettlement are dramatically changing cultural, ethnic, and age dynamics across the globe," Meeks stated.

She also highlighted common themes woven through the papers in the special issue.

"Strongest of these was the importance of social ties for promoting health and well-being, social ties that come from family and from living in cohesive neighborhoods or ethnically homogeneous communities," Meeks said. "Filial obligation was a common value across many cultures of origin, and while this obligation may lead to dedicated family caregivers, it also creates barriers to seeking and receiving formal

She added that "lack of culturally accessible services, and language barriers were common impediments to receiving care. Discrimination arose as a barrier to care from the perspective of care recipients, and also from the perspective of care providers who also are im/migrants."

Meeks also said the articles suggest that addressing cultural competence in care delivery, and respecting and bolstering community and family ties are important for supporting diverse im/migrant communities.

"As our global population ever moves and shifts, there is a need to move from seeing im/migration history as deficit or risk to recognizing ways in which cultural factors contribute to individual and community resilience," she wrote.
The Gerontologist is a peer-reviewed publication of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), the nation's oldest and largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to research, education, and practice in the field of aging. The principal mission of the Society -- and its 5,500+ members -- is to advance the study of aging and disseminate information among scientists, decision makers, and the general public. GSA's structure also includes a policy institute, the National Academy on an Aging Society, and an educational unit, the Academy for Gerontology in Higher Education.

The Gerontological Society of America

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