Burhan Akgül at the Bürgermeister Gräf Haus. Photo: DPA

Burhan Akgü. Photo from The Local

As a result of the German economic boom following the World War II, known there as the Wirtschaftswunder, Germany found itself severely short of workers for its factories.  As a result, the country was forced to launch a guest worker program, which brought thousands of foreign workers to the country, mostly of Turkish, Polish, Italian and Russian decent.  Several decades later, these workers have now spent a lifetime in Germany, and require unique services as they age.

An article in The Local asks several Germans working with this population about their needs.  Hüseyin Akpinar, who runs the HIWA Outreach Centre for Senior Immigrants in Frankfurt,  says that “no matter how well-integrated they are, there a subtle differences in how ageing immigrants and Germans wish to be cared for.”  As examples he points to the fact that “many Muslim women prefer to be bathed by other females” and that “the majority [of Muslim immigrants] don’t eat pork.” Akpinar further highlights the fact that many immigrants settled into upper level apartments when they moved to Germany, “but health problems often require a move to ground floor apartments.”   Silke Dinius, who runs AJUMA, a pilot project in Offenbach that encourages young men with immigration background to train in geriatric nursing, adds that “ageing also causes some immigrants to forget their German skills and revert back to their mother tongue.”  Yet, Mathias Fuchs, who until mid-2010 ran a project in Rüsselsheim to integrate retired guest workers employed at automaker Opel, says that the main concern for many of these workers is simple not to be seen as an “old foreigner.”

The article also highlights the story of Burhan Akgül.  Akgül is a 62-year-old immigrant from what is now Macedonia, who moved into the Bürgermeister Gräf Haus retirement home nine months ago.  He says that “the cliché that Turks always have large extended families to care for them does not always hold true.” Adding that “even the best family can’t provide care as they can here.”

Share your thoughts in this story with IAHSA.  Have you observed a set of needs that is particular to immigrants? Is there a particular group of immigrants that is currently in need of ageing services in your country? What programs exist for them?

For the full story, click here.

Added on 10-3-11: Is this the next wave of immigrants to Europe?

Added on 15-03-11: This blog entry highlights a similar situation in the United States.