Ageing Greek migrants turn to family for support

Older Greek migrants are relying on their families for support in preference to aged care services, research from Flinders University shows.

The study – conducted by Senior Research Fellow Dr Ruth Walker (pictured above) and colleagues from Flinders Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity and the Department of Modern Greek – interviewed 70 Greek migrants and 22 aged care providers to determine the types of support migrants require, whether they know how to access services and where they are currently getting help from. The median age of the interviewees was 79, and they all lived in metropolitan Adelaide.

Dr Walker said the research, conducted with the involvement of Greek-background researchers, found migrants relied heavily on their families for support instead of formal services due to cost and transport barriers, as well as a lack of culturally-sensitive services. Anecdotally we already knew that older Greek migrants were falling through the cracks and not getting the support they required so we wanted to find out from the people themselves what they perceived the barriers to be,” Dr Walker, based in the Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity, said.  What we found in talking to both older people and service providers is that despite years of work to make services culturally sensitive, older people are still experiencing barriers in accessing aged care and they are relying heavily on their families in preference to formal services,” she said.  They are either being looked after by their families or preferring their families to negotiate and monitor services, which can present challenges for families as they juggle their own work/life balance.”

Transport and cost imposts, as well as a lack of Greek aged care workers, were among the access barriers and service limitations recorded by both migrants and aged care providers.  Dr Walker said the findings showed aged care providers needed to develop novel strategies to better engage with migrants and their families.  “It’s not enough to produce an information brochure in Greek because the older person is asking their family when they need help, and Greek people often have literacy issues with their own language so we really need to think of innovative ways to access older people through their families. The same findings can also be applied to other non-English speaking migrant groups who are relying on their families as they age.”

The research, which was recently published in the British journal Health and Social Care in the Community, will be presented at the joint Anglicare SA/Flinders University Research to Practice Seminar today (Monday, September 30) at Flinders University Victoria Square. The seminar, titled Lost in the cracks: who is slipping through the aged care system and how do we respond?, will draw on the experiences of aged care providers and researchers to investigate pockets of hidden need and shed light on why ageing Australians are falling through the cracks.

The proceedings of the Ninth Biennial International Conference of Greek Studies (June 2011) publication and Crossing Boundaries: Greek Textual and Cultural Landscapes Special Issue of Modern Greek Studies (Australia and New Zealand, June 2013) publication are now printed and available to order. If you would like to order hard copies of either publication please contact

The publications are also available to view online following these links 2011 Proceedings  and Special Issue Journal


AGEING IN FOREIGN LANDS: The Case of the Australian Greek Community


In 2009, Professor Michael Tsianikas, decided to focus his research on issues that Australian Greek communities
are facing.   As thousands of Greek migrants are ageing rapidly, Professor Tsianikas created a team in collaboration
with the Department of Psychology at Flinders University and The Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity
in order to explore issues regarding the ageing Australian Greek population.

The team was able to develop various projects including:

  • Interviews with service providers and Greek migrants
  • Families involvement in the process of supporting Greek elders
  • Greek community challenges facing rapid increase of Greek elders

Out of these engagements the team was able to:
  • Deliver papers at various international conferences
  • Publish referred papers
  • Apply for an ARC linkage grant
  • Organise an international conference.