Minority Aging Issues

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Minority Aging Issues

Minority Aging Issues


This report covers the issues concerning black and minority ethnic elders living in the UK. Their experience like the majority population of elders is diverse. However, the last twenty years indicate particular patterns generated by their experience of belonging to a minority ethnic group which experience discrimination and disadvantage. It can be said that with a few exceptions in the mainstream ageing arena, the issues concerning black and minority ethnic elders have remained invisible or receive superficial treatment (Warnes, 1996). Similarly, in the general area of race and ethnic relations, when the efforts have been to meet the needs of black and minority ethnic groups and to counter racism, old age has sometimes been marginalised. The report thus speaks to all black and minority ethnic elders of today and tomorrow, whether they or their relatives came as a result of economic, colonial or refugee background (Ratcliffe, 1996). The urgency of the above quote is emphasised throughout this report: the current efforts have been to raise and develop the general area of ageing and ethnicity. Consequently the specific areas of for example, black and minority ethnic frail elders, women elders or particular ethnic elder groups have not been considered. This report does not imply lack of importance to such areas. There is simply much to be done.

Progress: past, present and the future

In the 1970's and in particular 1980's, policymakers and all those engaged with majority ageing were being persuaded by many people, particularly from black and minority ethnic backgrounds (BME), that you know people from these communities also grow old, like everyone else. They too need different forms of care and support - to a variable degree. And unless this issue was addressed, we in Britain would face considerable challenges in the future. This is because they said then, that in the next two decades, the growth would be in the 45-64 year age category. That challenge is upon us now, ten years on: yesterday's young are today's and tomorrow's elders - and increasingly policymakers, planners and those engaged with older people's agenda now recognise the need to address this growing group (Patel, 1990).

In the 1980's, we analysed empirical studies and reached several conclusions, one of which concerned the centrality of BME organisations in the supply of care. Assessing the evidence, such organisations were acting as 'primary providers' (substituting mainstream services) rather than acting as 'complementary providers' to mainstream health, social and housing services. Nor were white voluntary organisations filling the gaps with long term funding (Murray and Brown, 1998).

Age and 'Race' on the Agenda: the EMSG

And yet as we near the millennium, it is a salutary reminder that inspite of some progress made in the last two decades, much work still needs to be done to ensure that minorities are treated as a part of the UK society and not apart. Age Concern England as part of the Debate of the Age established the Ethnic Minorities Steering Group (EMSG). This is because the existing five ...
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