This is probably the major problem for an otherwise healthy ageing migrant. The cessation of work on retirement, the lack of clubs and recreational facilities in the neighbourhood where one could meet others of the same cultural background who could speak the same language, the reduced mobility from inability or reluctance to drive the car particularly at night - these factors all contribute to the problem.
Moreover, friends and relatives may not be easily reached by bus or tram. The proportion of relatives living in the same district is no more than 21% , with the vast majority of relatives living in other, non adjacent suburbs. All these factors tend to engender a feeling of isolation. Many home-bound aged persons rely on visits from their children and grandchildren as the only social contact, and they have very few friends with whom they can meet regularly. In the MCCV study mentioned above, companionship was one of the needs seen by the ageing as most urgently required.
The main reasons for isolation were found by AIMA (1986) to be related to:
- limited opportunities to establish social contacts with others of the same background,
- lack of established social networks,
- poor grasp of English language leading to communication problems,
- living in rented accommodation rather than with family,
- absence of relatives, particularly siblings, and a reduced 'pool' of family members. Ethnic aged are less likely than Australian born to have same generation relatives, and therefore more likely to be disadvantaged by having less family support (AIMA 1986),
- lack of mobility: 75% of ethnic aged do not drive a car and 20% cannot use public transport by themselves. This is particularly important for aged women: the number of Maltese elderly women who can drive a car can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The ACOTA/DSS survey 1985 found that no women of NESB background over the age of 75 held a driver's licence. Public transport presents problems of its own because of increasing frailty, tendency to senile related confusion, and lack of English skills.
Source: Maurice N. Cauchi - Maltese Migrants in Australia, Malta 1990