Cultural Diversity Week: celebrating CALD seniors

A diagnosis of dementia can have a devastating impact on an individual and their family.

Throw in the issue of cultural isolation, and trying to cope with the diagnosis can become completely overwhelming.

Eng Lu’s wife, Hie, was diagnosed with dementia in 2016. Eng was struggling to care for her alone and was referred to the Villa Maria Catholic Homes’ (VMCH) Multicultural Wellness Centre (MWC).

Opened in April 2016, the MWC was the first culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD)-specific, integrated, aged-focused wellness centre in Victoria. Every day of the week, multiculturalism is celebrated and seniors solidify connections to their cultural roots.

March 18-25 is Cultural Diversity Week, Victoria’s largest multicultural celebration.

Mr Lu is one of hundreds of seniors who’ve found support, and friends, at the Wantirna hub. The Lu’s (pictured below) attend a weekly Chinese social group where they enjoy activities such as tai chi, exercise classes, guest speakers and community outings.

“Since joining she’s become steady and better,” Mr Lu said. “At home she doesn’t want to do the exercises but will do them here. She was also getting anxious at home about safety and security but that’s stopped since coming here.”

Brenda Allsop (pictured below) joined the Filipino group last year. Although she migrated from the Philippines 48 years ago, Brenda has at times felt culturally isolated and makes it a priority to stay involved in her community.

VMCH Operations Manager Angela Ng said her team was passionate about caring for CALD seniors.  She added both Chinese and Sri Lankan communities had significant ageing populations in the eastern metropolitan regions.

Fast facts

  • Older persons from CALD backgrounds in 1996 comprised 18% of Australians aged 65 and over. By 2021, 30% of older Australians will come from a CALD background. (source: FECCA, 2010).
  • One in eight older people with dementia do not speak English and are more comfortable with people from a similar cultural background.
  • The Migrant Information Centre reports many older Chinese Australians have become frustrated by their inability to speak or read English and rely on their children for transportation and communication with service providers. They say the existence of senior support services can help to reduce their social isolation.

For more information on the MWC, call: (03) 9800 7255.

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