Multicultural Issues for Older Adults

“The mind that is wise mourns less for what age takes away; than what it leaves behind.”
William Wordsworth

Gregory A. Hinrichsen’s (2006) abstract entitled “Why Multicultural Issues Matter for Practitioners Working with Older Adults” is an analysis of older adult’s status within the therapeutic community.

Hinrichsen discusses the recently implemented American Psychological Associations guidelines for providers of clinical services to older adults and the ramifications of the guidelines on the multicultural older adult community.

Recent studies have shed new light on the status of older adul’s that illustrate unique issues multicultural older adults confront in receiving proper therapeutic care.

In the past, some geropsychologists have privately complained that although the APA emphasized the importance of diversity in the delivery of services to children, youth and younger adults, the old seemed to been left out in the cold.

What Hinrichsen proposes in his abstract is that therapists strictly follow the APA’s “Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Older Adults” particularly guideline 5 which states: “Psychologists need to strive to understand diversity in the aging process, particularly how sociocultural factors such as gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, disability status, and urban/rural residence may influence the experiences and expression of health and of psychological problems later in life” (APA, 2004, p. 242).

Critical Insights

Hinrichsen shares in the abstract a colleague’s response to a client’s plight as an example of the latent insensitivity that is still prevalent at times today in the therapeutic community.

Hinrichsen, discussed the sorry condition of an older frail woman in much detail and expected a sympathetic ear for his client. Instead, the colleague after a quiet moment or two, walked away stating; “well, if I get to that point when I am old, just shoot me” (Hinrichsen, 2006, p. 29).

Though the comment from the colleague was related to age and not race or ethnicity, it still underscored that negative attitudes towards groups different from one’s own may be present even in individuals whose profession is predicated on social justice (Hinrichsen, 2006).

Hinrichsen describes six major misconceptions of older adults:

  • They are alike (in fact very diverse)
  • They are alone and lonely (most are socially integrated)
  • They are sick, frai, and dependent (most live independently)
  • They feel depressed (they have lower rates of diagnosable depressive disorders than do younger adults)
  • They’re rigid in old age (there is stability of personality into late life)
  • They are unable to cope (they are remarkably resilient in the face of late life stresses)

Not only do therapists have to deal with their own prejudgments and misconceptions with older adults but the growth of the elder population in the not to distant future will increase significantly the amount of older adults who will need therapy.

In the year 2000, 84% of the aged were White, 8% Black, 6% were Hispanics. It is predicted that in the year 2050, 64% of the age will be White, 12% will be Black and 16% will be Hispanic.

Interestingly, a recent publication of the AARP Bulletin published an article about Social Security and used pictures of babies to emphasize the article but not one baby appeared to be a racial or an ethnic minority (Hinrichsen, 2006).

In 1999, 16% of America’s older population persons 65 years and older were those from ethnic minority backgrounds, in comparison with approximately 13% of the overall older population.

There are projections of significant growth rates, as much as by three times, anticipated for minority elders between the years 2010 and 2030 when the ‘‘baby boom’’ generation reaches age 65.
(Browne, Colette & Mokuau, 2008, p. 307)

Multicultural Issues for Older Adults

Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC

Steve Greenman, MA, LPC, NCC is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) in northern Michigan who has a passion for reading, writing, music and helping others. He specializes in counseling complex family situations, substance abuse, and parenting. Steve’s counseling philosophy is holistic, approaching each issue on its own merit and evaluating influences to help overcome life’s dilemmas.


APA Reference
Greenman, S. (2015). Multicultural Issues for Older Adults. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 19 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Oct 2015
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