Photo Félix Imhof

Claudio Bolzman gets award from Leenaards Found for a project on elderly migrants

Research on the quality of life of older immigrants from Africa and Latin America will be conducted in 2013, a topic still little studied in Switzerland and of growing concern among policy makers.

On the 2nd of October 2012 the Leenaards Foundation will grant several awards to fund research on the quality of life of elderly people. One of them concerns a study related to the NCCR LIVES.

In this project, Prof. Claudio Bolzman, teacher at the School of Social Work, Geneva, and head of the NCCR LIVES IP2, focuses on elders of African and Latin American origin. While these immigrants are known to be caregivers for elderly and dependent people, Prof. Bolzman intends to consider them through a new perspective, that of potential care receivers in old age.

His research, conducted in collaboration with a scientific assistant, Dr. Theogene-Octave Gakuba, will begin in January 2013 and will run for 12 months. Thirty older immigrants - 16 Latin Americans and 15 Africans residing in cantons of Geneva and Vaud - will undergo in-depth interviews. This qualitative study will be complemented by semi-structured interviews with professionals from socio-geriatric institutions and leaders of immigrant associations.

"Participants will be recruited mainly through national associations, but also through personal contacts and calls in the “ethnic media” to diversify profiles of respondents as much as possible", says Prof. Bolzman.

Perceptions and Resources

The issue will be studied in an interdisciplinary way (sociology, psychology, health), focusing on the living conditions of the elderly migrants, their subjective perception regarding their state of physical and mental health, and their personal and social resources to deal with health problems related to aging. Researchers look at how immigrants use health, social and geriatric services available, and if those are adapted to their expectations and needs.

The researchers will also look at the issue of elderly migrants’ interpersonal relationships with their relatives, with members of their community of origin and the host society, what are their strategies to create social bonds and how they are involved in daily activities and associations. Finally, the theme of the relation to the home country and Switzerland will be addressed, especially in connection with a possible return to the country of origin for retirement or funeral.

To better integrate

According to prof. Bolzman, “this research responds to the need for information-gathering and production of knowledge on a subject that has not been studied in Switzerland and about which literature is almost nonexistent. It also falls into the concerns of federal and cantonal authorities to integrate foreign populations resident in Switzerland and to improve the quality of life of older people.”

Recommendations based on findings and wishes expressed by the surveyed immigrants and professionals should result from this project. Research topics to explore in the future will likely also be identified. This research also provides an opportunity to complete the quantitative survey led by Prof. Michel Oris under the IP13 by a qualitative study on populations that are usually poorly represented in terms of statistics.