Moroccan and Turkish migrant seniors: vulnerable, privileged and resilient

Foto: Leo de Bock

Migration has brought Moroccan and Turkish migrant elders many positive things: many are perfectly capable of living a good old age. On the other hand, in order to provide good care for those who are heavily in need of help, it is necessary not only to change the culture of the care institutions, but also that of the elderly and their children themselves. This is what Prof. Dr. Tineke Fokkema argues in her inaugural lecture 'Migrants of the first hour: a lost generation in old age'. On Friday, 8 March, she accepts the special chair 'Ageing, Families and Migration' at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

About half a century ago, hundreds of Moroccan and Turkish men came to the Netherlands for work. Some of them returned home according to plan after a number of years. Those who stayed often sent their wives and children to the Netherlands and have grown old by now. Due to the higher age and increasing demand for care, the interest in this growing group of Moroccan and Turkish migrant seniors in scientific research is growing more and more.

Privileged and resilient

Moroccan and Turkish older migrants are mainly focused on their higher vulnerability: on average, they have less to spend, are more likely to suffer from physical and psychosocial health problems, and are less well housed than Dutch elderly people without a migration background.
But the glass is not only half empty, it is also half full. The migration step and the decision to stay here have done many good. They are more prosperous compared to their peers in Morocco and Turkey, they have access to better medical care, the future prospects for their (grand)children are more favourable, and there is more room for personal freedom here. Moreover, the general picture of vulnerability does not do justice to the many Moroccan and Turkish migrant seniors who do have the right resources to grow old in a resilient manner.

"The migration step and the decision to stay here have done many good."

Adaptation in care needed

There is also a lot of attention for the best form of care for those in need. The dominant norm within the Moroccan and Turkish communities that children take care of their parents increasingly rubs shoulders with the busy work and family life of the informal carers. Although there are culture-specific and multicultural (residential) care facilities, this is not enough to answer the future demand for care. The structural promotion of cultural sensitivity in mainstream care institutions is therefore urgently needed. A hallmark showing that a migrant-friendly policy is being pursued can speed up this process. Moroccan and Turkish elderly people and their children will have to learn to recognise that informal care is not always the only good or most suitable care.

Download the text of the oration by Tineke Fokkema

  • About Tineke Fokkema

    Prof. dr. Tineke Fokkema has been Professor of Ageing, Families and Migration at the Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences for the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI-KNAW) since February 2018. Since 1997, Fokkema has been a researcher at the NIDI in the field of successful ageing and migration. She is also coordinator of the IMISCOE Standing Committee on Ageing Migrants. Fokkema studied Economics at the Free University of Amsterdam, where she obtained her PhD with a thesis on the relocation behaviour of elderly people in the Netherlands.

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