International review of seniors strategies that support ethno-cultural and linguistic diversity

AUTHORS    Seong-gee Um, Jessica Lee & Poussy Boulos

LOCATION   International


Growing ethno-cultural and linguistic diversity among older population groups is an experience shared by countries of immigration like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom (U.K.), and the United States (U.S.). These international jurisdictions have introduced a range of national-level or provincial/state-level strategies to address the evolving needs of diverse older populations in their health and social care systems; ranging from the provision of linguistically appropriate resources to enhancing cultural competency of the health and social care workforce.

To inform the policy development of improving access to culturally appropriate care for all Ontarians, this international review aims to present policy options through examples from other jurisdictions. This report explores how other jurisdictions with shared challenges have adopted seniors’ strategies to better address the growing diversity of needs among their older population. This review aims to identify and describe promising strategies that have been developed to improve access to programs and services for seniors from diverse communities. Ultimately, this report presents emerging strategies and themes identified in the reviewed strategies to discuss the implications for the Ontario context.

How does this research apply to my work?

The Australian National Ageing and Aged Care Strategy for People from CALD Backgrounds (2012) and the New York State strategy (2015) are presented as case studies, as they represent varying extents to which diversity can be embedded in a seniors’ strategy. These case studies provide detailed, practical examples of how international jurisdictions have addressed diverse ethno-cultural and linguistic needs of seniors through national or state-level strategies. The two case studies chosen for this report present particularly promising strategies. They provide a range of promising examples – one national strategy presenting diversity at the core of the strategy and one state-level strategy presenting diversity as part of the strategy. Key components of these case studies can be used at the local level in supporting newcomer seniors.

What should I take away from this research?

This review of fifteen seniors’ strategies found that in recent years significant work has been achieved to address evolving needs of diverse senior populations and to improve their access to culturally and linguistically appropriate care. While each strategy presents its own uniqueness given the local care structure, policy and legal contexts, and population needs, this review also found common trends, principles, and approaches across the fifteen strategies. Two prominent themes that are found in nearly every jurisdiction reviewed are: i) addressing the needs of linguistic support for those who have limited English proficiency; and ii) addressing the needs of culturally appropriate care through improving the workforce capacity. To ensure that those with limited English proficiency access appropriate care services and programs, common methods adopted by these strategies are providing government-funded translation and interpretation services, via telephone or in-person, to facilitate access to care and informing seniors and their family caregivers about available services and programs in multiple languages through targeted outreach. Each of these strategies include one or more action items related to providing training to case managers, health care professionals, nurses, or others in the seniors’ care workforce.

What’s the next step?

This report presents promising strategies adopted in various jurisdictions across Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand that address the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse senior populations in the continuum of seniors’ care. Findings of this report can be helpful for Ontario as the province is working on a new province-wide strategy to improve the lives of seniors. The examples of reviewed strategies and their specific actions can be used to illuminate potential solutions and actions that the Ontario Government can take in the development, implementation, and enforcement of policies and programs to improve access to culturally and linguistically appropriate care for seniors across the province.

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