Provision for older people is failing to take into account the specific needs of ethnic minorities and tailored support needs to be introduced, a new report argues today.

Published by the Runnymede Trust, the UK’s leading race equality think tank, the report uncovered that many older ethnic minority people feel that their current care provision fails to take into consideration their language, cultural and other needs, making their final years more difficult.

It also argues against the government’s “colour-blind” approach to ethnicity which aims to provide universal and “one-size fits all” policies, regardless of specific needs.

The situation is likely to worsen unless tailored care and support is introduced, particularly given that the older ethnic minority population is due to grow from 230,000 in 2001 to 2.7 million by 2051.

Based on discussions with over 100 older ethnic minority people, a large number of participants in the research expressed concern that care homes do not currently cater to their needs.

Language was the biggest concern of non-English speaking older people from Chinese and South Asian backgrounds who noted that they and many of their peers would not only be unable to engage with others around them, but would also be unable to communicate illness and health problems.

Large numbers of participants also expressed concerns around issues which may initially seem less crucial, yet have a big impact on their lives, such as the need for culturally specific food, hairdressing and other needs.

As one participant said: “…these things aren’t peripheral issues. To the person, which is maybe all they have left in their final years, it’s a core issue”. (Black male participant,)

Another added: “When you get old you want to be comfortable, you want to eat the things – no look it’s very important, fuel is part of what keeps you going and if it is not nice you will give up and not want to go any further…And also for us ladies, having our hair done…Can the hairdresser cope with my hair?” (Black female participant)

In addition to calling for provision tailored to ethnic minority needs, the report recommends that policymakers and local officials must plan better for future demographic change due to the increasing numbers of ethnic minority older people, and should also ensure that funding for community centres providing services to ethnic minority older people should be continued and expanded.

The report’s author and Runnymede Head of Policy Dr Omar Khan, said:

Ethnic minority older people are a growing population in the UK, and continue to contribute positively to our society. However, they also have some particular needs and experiences that are not currently being adequately planned for.

If the government is serious about ensuring that all older people live with dignity, they must accept that this sometimes requires tailored policies or measures, while at other times universal services will be more appropriate. Rather than being doctrinaire in their approach, then, government and other agencies must be more flexible in considering whether specialised or universal responses are appropriate to older ethnic minority needs, and be willing to change their approach given the enormous demographic changes on the horizon in the coming decades”.

For further research:

“A Sense of Place: Retirement Decisions among Older Black and Minority Ethnic People” is available to download for free here:

Or contact

Vicki Butler
Public Affairs Manager
 The Runnymede Trust
7 Plough Yard
T: 020 7377 9222



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