Older Australians are diverse. Over one-third of all people aged 65 and over are born overseas, whilst 20% of older Australians speak a language other than English at home. The number of older immigrants from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds is increasing faster than English-speaking older people born in Australia. 

Existing research has shown that older people from CALD backgrounds are often underrepresented in social services, such as healthcare, disability and aged care. They are also more likely to be socially isolated because of language and cultural barriers. These issues lead to the growing number of CALD older people who are disoriented, depressed & dependent.

Institute member Prof Bingqin Li has recently led a project to explore an under-researched model of community volunteering practiced by the Chinese Australian Services Society (CASS). The CASS volunteer model involves older Chinese people – who have been working as volunteers not only for their wellbeing but also to support culturally appropriate old age service delivery. 

“The CASS Community Volunteer Model which stresses assisted self-governance, has managed to reach out to some of the most isolated population and turn them into active contributors of the society. We can see benefits to CALD older people including increased motivation, confidence and social integration. There are also potential widespread benefits to systems like aged care – this model taps into unused and underutilised human resources and social capital to give older people skill and work quality and engage those disconnected from the system. This volunteer model has the potential to pave the way toward a service-based incubator for volunteering. A modified version can also work in communities to support community building in areas with high level of social isolation.” says Professor Li.

Professor Li’s research has been on the public policy perspective on developing old age social protection and old age-friendly perspectives. She has been working on China's community-based old age care services and an inclusive pension system. 

“We live in a highly multicultural society and this diversity will continue to increase as current and future generations age. It is imperative that more work needs to be done to address ageing-related issues, in particular the acute challenges to the conventional ways of service delivery to CALD populations now and for the future.”

Read the full CASS project report here