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Vicino – elderly migrants in their neighbourhood

Social networks and participation

At a glance


The research and development project vicino looks into the question of how elderly mig-rants are interconnected in their neighbourhood, and which participatory methods can be used to strengthen their existing social Networks and to incorporate elderly migrants into programmes to a greater extent. This project is a collaboration between Pro Senectute, in the cantons of Zurich and Aargau, and the ZHAW School of Social Work.

Initial SituationAs a source of social support, social networks in the neighbourhood take on more importance for residents as they get older. To date, there has only been peripheral research into the life situation of elderly migrants in their residential neighbourhood. Also, there are only a few projects for improvement of the social integration of elderly persons with a migrant background within neighbourhoods.

ObjectiveThis project’s objective is to provide a guideline for participatory incorporation of migrants into their neighbourhood. Promotion of social support in the neighbourhood should ensure a high qua-lity of life in the local area and a situation should be achieved in which elderly migrants can live independently at home for longer. The project also aims to strengthen coopera-tion between science and practice, and to link innovative research methods with interventions.

MethodologyThe project consists of a research section, an intervention section and a development section. The research section involves assessing transnational networking, the social integration of elderly migrants and their need for networking in their neighbourhood, as well as investigating whether this varies between rural and urban regions. Zurich Altstetten (urban context), Uster (agglomera-tion community) and Reinach in the canton Aargau (rural community) were chosen as research sites. The integration section is conducted in cooperation with the target group. Here, intervention concepts for the strengthening and enhancement of elderly migrants’ social networks are developed and implemented, and the participatory approach is scientifically evaluated. In the development section, the task is to bundle the findings from the first to project sections within a guideline for professionals who work in the domain of ageing and migration. This guide-line should help interested professionals and migrant organisations in the further development of programmes.

ResultsFormal and informal nationality-specific and language-specific networks are particularly impor-tant for people who are not very skilled in the local language. These networks perform functions such as event organisation, in addition to playing a central role in the provision of support and advice for elderly people. Smaller municipalities and rural regions, unlike cities, do not offer much in this regard, so the regulatory structures there in particular are called on to actively approach elderly migrants and to incorporate them into the development of programmes. The fact that some elderly migrants often spend time in their countries of origin is to be kept in mind here. Upon addressing the target group, outreaching approaches proved successful: initial contact via key in-dividuals, events within their own structures and in their native language, and informal meeting points for making contact.