8.12 Specific Needs of Maltese Aged

A general aged-care policy as advocated by a number of workers is definitely required. These needs have been summarised by Barnett (1988) as follows:

  1. The need for linguistically appropriate services. We have shown elsewhere that the number of illiterate Maltese is not less than that of other ethnic groups, yet we have epro rata the lowest number of interpreters, Maltese-speaking nursing staff and social workers. The lack of utilization of services such as telephone interpreter services is probably partly due to lack of awareness of the service.
  2. The need for culturally appropriate services: the usefulness of generalist services is greatly limited precisely because of their lack of cultural appropriateness. "Governments (and most other employers) have been slow to recognise bilingualism and biculturalism as essential work-relevant skills in our multicultural society" (Barnett, 1988 p 19). Specialist services such as the day-care centre provided by the MCCV is only a start but is certainly much appreciated by the small number of persons that are able to make use of such a service.
  3. The need for information targeted to the ethnic aged: The isolation of the Maltese aged is penetrated only by ethnic radio, the only link with the outside world. The Ethnic Aged Working Party (1986) made several recommendations to government departments relating to information dissemination, however, it is my view that reliance on printed material is unlikely to reach their target as far as the Maltese community is concerned. The insignificant number of hours devoted to programs in Maltese on SBS television make this medium also unreliable. Use of Maltese ethnic organisations and church-related functions to disseminate information are also an effective way to reach the Maltese aged.
  4. The need for appropriate consultative and participatory processes: the ethnic aged, through their representatives should involve themselves fully in all aspects of aged care programs and services. We agree with the remarks of Nathan and Howe that 'In the longer term, legitimate representation of ethnic communities in the control of overall programs and individual services is the only guarantee that account will be taken of the diverse cultural heritages which affects needs and preferences.
  5. The need for appropriate training strategies: For this to happen we must have an active program that encourages not only the incorporation of cross-cultural aspects in the provision of training, but also the active attraction of native speaking service providers such as nurses and social workers. This would require provision of bridging courses and more flexible accreditation provisions. The lack of recognition of Maltese qualifications merely compounds the problem.
  6. The need for improved co-ordination of services and programs. The distinct impression exists that many government departments work in complete isolation from one another, with few attempts at co-ordination of the various services provided by them. The creation of 'ethnic aged coordinators' as recommended by Brewer (1985) would help identify and facilitate services in this area.
  7. The need for appropriate planning and data collection systems. The lack of data on specific areas of need have been emphasized above. Much more energy should be spent on identifying problem areas as met by our ageing population. This can only be done if adequate resources and funding are available.

It is only through maximising the efficiency of both generalist and ethno-specific services that the ethnic aged can profit. The emphasis should be on flexibility, with the promotion of "joint ventures" or partnerships between "mainstream" providers and ethnic community organisations as recommended by Barnet (1988). This would appear to fit a modified generalist model and would be acceptable to most ethnic communities.

social workers. This would require provision of bridging courses and more flexible accreditation provisions. The lack of recognition of Maltese qualifications merely compounds the problem.

Source: Maurice N. Cauchi - Maltese Migrants in Australia, Malta 1990

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