8 The Ageing of Maltese Migrants

There is now an increasing awareness that the opportunity to reminisce is of great psychological importance to the aged generally (Lindenmayer, 1987 p 9).

Current aged services cannot adequatly caterfor the needs of the ethnic aged since they are characteristically mono-lingual and monocultural in nature. (Eynaud & Sumers 1984 p 29)

"Functional illiteracy in English or in both (ethnic and English) languages; lack of spoken English, disengagement and reversion to the mother tongue, all of which combine to make the ethnic language and the spoken word of paramount importance to the ethnic aged (Hearst, 1981, p 44)

The ageing process presents particular problems to migrants. Not only are they faced with a drastic reduction in their earning capacity, leading directly to a drop in the standard of living, but they also have to deal with an increasing number of new problems relating to failing health, forgetfulness, and reduced mobility, necessitating increased reliance on members of the family or friends.

The proportion of aged persons of ethnic origin is growing faster than that of the Australian born population as a whole: in the 1971 - 81 period the number of ethnic aged increased by 79%, as compared to 25% in the Australian population. (Hugo, 1983).

The life expectancy in Australia today is 79 years for females and 73 years for males (Lindenmayer, 1987 p 6). The number of persons over the age of 60 in Australia was 1.3 million in 1961 and 2 million in 1981, or 14% of the population, (which compares with Malta, where the proportion of aged persons is 14.5%). This is expected to reach 3 million or 16% of the population by the year 2001. By contrast, the number of ethnic aged is expect to increase three-fold , from 220,000 to 660,000 by the year 2001. This will mean that by then, 62% of the total overseas-born population will be over the age of 60. Moreover, the 75 year old age group will be the fastest growing group of all, with a six fold increase in some ethnic aged (eg Dutch).

The Maltese-born constitute one of the fastest ageing ethnic group. The median age of the the Maltese in Australia is 42.3 years compared to the Australian-born average of 27.5 years. (Castles 1989). The number of Maltese-born aged 60 and over was just over 6 thousand in 1981. In 1986, the 21.5% of the Maltese-born population or just over 12,000 persons were aged 55 years and over. It is estimated that over need 15 years the number of Maltese-born aged will increase to over 19 thousand or 30% of the total Maltese-born population. This means that the proportion of aged Maltese is faster than in most other ethnic groups.

Maltese migrants have tended to settle in defined areas of Melbourne and Sydney. In Melbourne, the largest collections of aged people occur in Sunshine, Broadmeadows and Keilor. In these localities, they make up to 6% of the total aged persons in the area. In Sydney, the i,cest collections are to be found in Fairfield, Paramatta and R,ndwick, where they constitute up to 2% of the total aged population.

Data relating to special needs of Maltese migrants is practically non existent. The Maltese Community Council of Victoria (MCCV) carried out an aged population survey in 1987, which involved a total of 650 persons in Melbourne, and the following summary is based on those findings.

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

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