Multicultural Aging and Mental Health Resource Guide

Introduction

In many ways, it is almost intuitive to consider that health care providers who work with older adults are focused on issues of diversity, particularly if elder status is regarded as one of several cultural differentiators. But beyond the fact that an older adult is different because of an aging distinction, other elements that characterize a diverse population require as much attention. Other important aspects of diversity include race, ethnicity, language, gender, socio-economic status, physical ability, sexual orientation, education, location of residence and religion/spirituality. The aging population served clinically, studied and researched, and managed in organizational settings (such as long-term care facilities) challenges psychologists to continually hone multicultural knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics (including attitudes) — “gerodiversity” competencies.

Although many are the aspects of diversity that impact health practice, it has been effectively argued that ethnicity and race will be at the forefront of multicultural concerns for the foreseeable future if for no other reason than the substantial demographic shift in the U.S. population of an increasingly multiethnic population. By 2050, Hispanics/Latinos are expected to make up 30 percent of the U.S. population, and by 2019, the Hispanic population aged 65 and older is projected to be the largest racial/ethnic “minority” group in this age cohort. Working with racial/ethnic groups such as Latinos requires knowledge of additional diversity factors such as acculturation, indigenous beliefs for healing practices, and social justice issues including discriminatory experiences. These factors along with the previously described diversity aspects can have direct influence on aging issues of caregiving, end-of-life concerns, mental health and physical illness.

This resource guide is a useful tool for maintaining one's awareness of multicultural health issues in the aging population, and the readings can inspire the integration of multicultural knowledge in the day-to-day work of health care practice with older adults. By becoming familiar with and utilizing the educational resources described in this guide, psychologists can stay abreast of the evolving field of gerodiversity.

Yvette N. Tazeau, PhD 
ynt consulting, San Jose, Calif.
chair, Diversity Committee
APA Society of Clinical Geropsychology
October 2013

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