Healthy communities in ageing societies –participatory research with elderly immigrants and refugees living in a Nordic society (HEALTHCOM)

The ageing population in Nordic societies is getting increasingly diverse. Whereas until recently numbers of immigrants and refugees aged 65+ were almost negligible, such numbers are on the rise and will grow significantly in the next years. This new, albeit heterogenous, group of elderly poses common challenges for Nordic welfare states. Both the public health sector and Nordic countries’ strong civil society organisations are not used to cater for and work with this group who has also been shown to display mistrust in the health care system. Health promotion is, however, much needed since elderly members of immigrant and refugee groups have been identified as particularly health challenged. Many live in poverty, have a poor mental and physical health status and struggle with isolation, loneliness, and social exclusion.

The overarching aim of HEALTHCOM is to explore the opportunities and barriers for promoting the health and well-being of elderly immigrants and refugees living in a Nordic society, with a specific focus on the community-based development of physical activities. HEALTHCOM consists of four sub-projects, which will be initiated in the project’s four Nordic partner countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden). The four sub-projects will involve a variety of minority-ethnic groups with different gender, ethnicity and religion, and examine the community-building processes in different types of communities ranging from a so-called deprived neighbourhood over faith-based community organizations to different types of civil society as well as public health organizations. Each sub-project will employ and develop different innovative mobile and arts-based methods (e.g., body-map storytelling or walking methodology) that may help to involve health challenged minority-ethnic groups with low proficiency in the respective Nordic language.

The project will contribute to fill significant gaps in the literature on healthy and active ageing where the voices of older immigrants and refugees are largely absent. Results will provide Nordic public health and civil society organisations with new knowledge and methods that can help them adjust current programmes to embrace the increasing heterogeneity of ageing Nordic populations.


Bodil Aurstad. Photo: NordForsk

Bodil Aurstad