Experiences of health and care when growing old in Norway - From the perspective of elderly immigrants with minority ethnic backgrounds

Bente Thyli, Birgitta Hedelin, Elsy Athlin


Background: Along with the growing population in Norway of older people with immigrant backgrounds from countries in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe there is a need for a better understanding of trans-cultural aging, illness experiences and care preferences among minorities and their families.

Aim: This study explored older ethnic minority immigrants’ experiences of growing old in Norway with a focus on health and care.

Design: An explorative, descriptive design with a grounded theory approach was used.

Method: The data was collected in Norway by means of open-ended interviews with nine ethnic minority immigrants representing an age span from 63 to 85 years. In total 15 interviews were conducted, with the sampling, data collection and analysis carried out simultaneously and guided by the constant comparative method.

Results: This study showed that the most important issue when growing old in a new homeland as an ethnic minority immigrant was to be surrounded by one’s family. When the needs for care increased due to changes in age and health, the family was seen as the only possible solution. Feelings of fear and distrust, language barriers, and preferences for the familiar care were reasons for this. Due to cultural rules it was taken for granted that the younger generation took on responsibility for their older parents/relatives in need of care, which led to feelings of dependency and being a burden. A high price had been paid for finding a new homeland.

Conclusions and Implications for Practice: The elderly immigrants’ expectations of care was found to be strongly connected with traditions from their native country, where it was taken for granted that the younger generation took the responsibility for their older parents/relatives in need of care. Our findings highlighted the dilemma of culturally determined controversies, as elderly immigrants’ beliefs and values about care within the family may be rather difficult to unite with a life in a new Western society. Nursing practice needs to implement a more family-oriented care perspective in order to meet the needs of elderly people with ethnic minority and immigrant backgrounds. Further it is important to increase elderly immigrants’ feelings of trust and cultural safety towards health-care services.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/cns.v2n3p52


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Clinical Nursing Studies
ISSN 2324-7940(Print)   ISSN 2324-7959(Online)

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