Research evidence indicates the need for studies that explore the salience of dignity from the perspective of older people from a range of ethno-linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Drawing findings from a mixed-methods study on social-care expectations of community-dwelling older women from black and minority-ethnic backgrounds, the purpose of this paper is to explore the interrelationships between life-course events (such as migration) and the roles adopted by the women throughout their lives, which shaped their understanding of dignity.
Face-to-face, semi-structured interviews with 32 older women in Wales were conducted in the participants’ first languages. The interview schedule was developed, piloted and peer-reviewed; it covered the themes of migration, perceptions of dignity, dignity in later life, perceptions of care and care with dignity. Transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis. This paper focuses on what dignity meant to older women and how a sense of dignity was fostered in later life.
For the participants, a sense of dignity in later life was shaped by migration to the UK, and their shifting, transnational understanding of growing old in the UK and of the perceived worth and value of the roles they played. Although some women also saw other platforms (such as work and their status as professionals) as being of importance, a sense of purpose fostered in their roles as wives, mothers and grandmothers, and as mentors and guardians of cultural knowledge, underpinned their understanding of dignity, and reinforced their sense of acknowledgement and worth. Fostered from an early age through interactions with the family and close community (religious, cultural or ethnic), respect for older people was revealed to remain a key element of the participants’ personal and cultural value systems, as were the ways in which respect should be both earned and manifested. The sense of heightened vulnerability, because of advancing age, and the impact of cumulative negative encounters and racialised micro-aggressions, were real and pressing.
Given the changing demographic of the older population throughout Europe and the world, there is a need to raise awareness among policy makers and practitioners of the importance of dignity from a range of perspectives – providing first-hand accounts that bring these to life, and data that can be used to help develop effective interventions.
This paper adds to the understanding of dignity from a transnational, multi-ethnic perspective; the potential impact of multiple social positions (being old, being a woman, being a migrant and being from a minority-ethnic group) on the perception of being treated and regarded as important and valuable; and the need to raise awareness among policy makers and practitioners of the importance of dignity from a range of perspectives, providing first-hand accounts that bring these to life and that can be used to help develop effective social-care interventions.
The authors are very grateful to all those who took part in the study. In particular, they would like to thank the older people who generously gave their time to be interviewed. The authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution of the community researchers Pauline Andam, Tue Hong Baker, Jasmin Chowdhury, Wendy Low and Leanne Taylor. They also acknowledge Martin Jones and Older Minority Ethnic Network (OMEN), Age Cymru who provided an ongoing steer to the study. This study was funded by Welsh Government National Institute of Social Care and Health Research (NISCHR).
Saltus, R. and Pithara, C. (2014), "A sense of dignity in later life: a qualitative study on the views of older women migrants from minoritised backgrounds", Quality in Ageing and Older Adults, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 21-33. https://doi.org/10.1108/QAOA-06-2013-0016Download as .RIS
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