Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Health and social status of elderly Asians: a community survey.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986; 293 doi: (Published 25 October 1986) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1986;293:1079
  1. L J Donaldson


    A sample based on general practices was the starting point for a community survey of Asians aged 65 years and over to describe: family structure and social contact; aspects of lifestyle; language and communication; capacity for self care; and knowledge about and use of services. A total of 726 (95% of those approached) old people were interviewed in their own languages. Almost all had been born in India, mainly in Gujarat or the Punjab, but most had come to Britain via east Africa. Over half of the over 75s were not fully independent in basic activities of daily living, and a fifth were occasionally or often incontinent of urine, though these levels of incapacity were little different from those found in the indigenous elderly. Few elderly Asians were aware of social services, such as meals on wheels, home helps, social workers, and particularly chiropody. Language also excluded them: 37% of men and only 2% of women could speak English. Moreover, two thirds of elderly Asian women were illiterate in all languages. Health education initiatives directed at these people must understand these cultural and language barriers and perhaps use alternative methods, such as Asian radio programmes and home videos, in providing information on health and welfare services.