Active Ageing: Social and cultural integration of Turkish migrants in London


Ageing of migrants in Europe has become an important policy issue, especially within the context of health inequalities and increasing health care costs. Based on in-depth interviews with older Alevi/Kurdish refugees in London, we explore the cumulative impact of difficult migration trajectories on the experience of ageing. The findings highlight the important role of cultural capital and transnational ties throughout the refugees’ migration journeys and particularly at old age. However, the study indicates the double edge impact of strong ‘solidarity’ bonds, increasing isolation at old age due to lack of accumulation of capital and knowledge, particularly language, which is important in accessing health and social care services at old age.

Migration has been in the majority regarded as a phenomenon that mainly affects the young, however, many earlier migrants are growing older in the majority of Europe. While considerable policy attention is given to the integration and settlement processes of migrants with some attention to the experience of women and children, very little attention is given to the growing group of older migrants. Forced migration in particular is associated with a significant physical and mental burden on refugees that expand over a long period of time.

Past and current migration trends and population ageing suggest that the issue of active ageing for older people from ethnic minority groups will become more imperative. In order to plan services for older refugees, it is important to understand how specific cultural and ethnic structures may impact individuals’ health and social care requirements.

The study highlights the vulnerable position of Turkish older people living in the UK. A continuum of events and reliance on a strong and supportive social structure facilitated their early settlement within a closed community, yet isolated many from the wider society. For older people, who in the majority suffer from different health problems at a younger age, ageing becomes a more stressful stage as the need to communicate, seek and access the wider society increases. There are clear needs for health and social care provisions to understand the level of isolation and complex needs among this community and to facilitate access through innovative practice and building bridges capitalising on the experience of community associations and younger generations.

Sema Oglak & Shereen Hussein (2016) Active Ageing: Social and Cultural Integration of Older Turkish Alevi Refugees in LondonJournal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 36:1, 74-87


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Professor of Health and Social Care Policy, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK

Shereen Hussein is a Professor of Health and Social Care Policy at the Department of Health Services Research and Policy (HSRP) at the LSHTM. She is a Co-Director of the PRUComm policy research unit. She is also an Honorary Professor at the University of Kent and King’s College London in the UK and the University of Southern Queensland in Australia.

Shereen is a demographer with expertise in labour-migration, sociology and economics. Her primary research revolves around ageing, family dynamics, migration and long-term care. Shereen has previously worked with the United Nations, the Population Council, the World Bank, and the League of Arab States. Her current research focuses on ageing demographics, long term care demand and migration within the UK and Europe and the implications on policy and practice.

Shereen has conducted extensive research on population ageing and its impact on long term care and health policy and practices in the UK, internationally and in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. She has contributed to recent United Nations’ policy response to ageing in the region through collaboration with UN-ESCWA and directly providing expert consultations to several countries in the region including Turkey, Oman and Egypt. Shereen leads many large research projects on ageing and long-term care in the UK and contributes to a large project addressing responses to dementia in developing countries STRiDE. Shereen is the founder and lead of the MENARAH network.

Professor at Adnan Menderes Üniversitesi, Turkey | + posts

Adnan Menderes Üniversitesi, Turkey

Sema Oglak is a Professor at the University of Aydin Adnan Menderes, Department of Labor Economics and Industrial Relations. Following several post-doctoral posts, she became a visiting research fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London, UK. Her research covered long-term care experiences of the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Israel and Italy. Her main research interests are in elderly long-term care policy and services, active ageing, health promotion, age-friendly environments, migrant care workers, and volunteering issues. She has been involved in several national and international projects related to long-term care services.