This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on Thursday, October 12, 2017. Purchase tickets here! Wine Around the World 2017.
Meeting the culturally diverse needs of aging migrants
Like most of Europe, Austria faces significant population aging. Its fertility and mortality rates are decreasing as its life expectancies increase. In Germany, the median age is almost 47; in Italy, 45; in Austria and Greece, 44. These trends pose a very serious challenge to European society. As Europe ages, the costs of healthcare and pensions will increase dramatically while tax revenues decrease. The savings rate will decrease too, since retirees have little incentive to save, which means investment will lessen, potentially slowing the economy further. The effect could be a fiscal catastrophe.
So, when millions of migrants, disproportionately young and male, came knocking on the borders of Western Europe years ago, many sensed an opportunity to integrate the migrants into Austrian society, boosting the country’s shrinking labor force, contributing taxes to help alleviate the country’s looming revenue problem, and increasing the nation’s savings rate. Largely, those goals were not realized.
In addition to the challenges of such migration, the health of older immigrants can have important consequences for needed social support and demands placed on health systems. In a recent study of 11 European countries, migrants generally have worse health than the native population. In these countries, there is a little evidence of the “healthy migrant” at ages 50 years and over. In general, it appears that growing numbers of immigrants may portend more health problems in the population in subsequent years.
Roughly 1.6 million inhabitants of Austria have a migration background, of which 10.2% are older than 65 years with a growing number expected for the near future as well. Yet in Austria, there has been little or no discussion of the need for culturally sensitive health care options. Elderly care for migrants is largely decoded as special needs care. Migrants’ special needs range from a language-based treatment (especially for patients with dementia) to the respect of cultural habits, tastes and religious backgrounds.
Austria now needs to focus on the impact of growing immigration on the health and social security needs of a growing and aging immigrant population. In general, growing numbers of immigrants may be linked to more health problems in the population in subsequent years, requiring new strategies in eldercare.