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Diversity and Cultural Competency

ACL celebrates our nation’s rich diversity, and recognizes that minority Americans are often at greater risk of poor health, social isolation, and poverty. Between 1999 and 2030, the older minority population (age 65+) is projected to increase by 217%, compared to an increase of 81% for the older white population. In addition, the number of older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals continues to increase, and many people face discrimination based on their age and sexual orientation. The information provided here is intended to help increase access to and improve programs for our diverse American population.

Cultural Competency

Cultural competency is critical to reducing health disparities and improving access to health care that is respectful of and responsive to diverse needs. Culture involves a number of things, including personal identification, language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions that are often specific to ethnic, racial, religious, geographic, or social groups. For the provider of health information or health care, these elements influence beliefs and belief systems surrounding health, healing, wellness, illness, disease, and delivery of health services.


Administration on Disability Programs Promoting Diversity and Cultural Competency

A variety of ACL disability programs award funding to enhance the cultural and linguistic competency of the disability network and ensure that all people with disabilities can access ACL-funded programs and services.

Older Adults' Equity Collaborative

Established in 2020, this collaborative includes five ACL-funded Minority Aging Technical Assistance and Resource Centers (TARCs) that each focus on serving a unique community. Together, they work to ensure access and equity across aging services programs by providing technical assistance to the aging services network.

Toolkit for Serving Diverse Communities

This AoA toolkit provides the Aging Network and its partners with replicable and easy-to-use methods for providing respectful, inclusive, and sensitive services for any diverse community.

Health Equity Guiding Principles for Inclusive Communication 

This living document from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasize the importance of addressing all people inclusively and respectfully. These principles are intended to help public health professionals, particularly health communicators, ensure their communication products and strategies adapt to the specific cultural, linguistic, environmental, and historical situation of each population or audience of focus. CDC stresses that this is not a style guide and is not meant to be prescriptive or exhaustive, but rather to provide principles, resources, and specific suggestions on a variety of topics to help inform an inclusive approach to public health communications. 

HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH)

OMH's mission is to improve and protect the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will eliminate health disparities.

Cultural Competence Resources for Health Care Providers

This resource page for health care providers is provided by the Health Resources and Services Administration.

National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC) 

NCCC's mission is to increase the capacity of health and mental health programs to design, implement, and evaluate culturally and linguistically competent service delivery systems.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT)

Experts estimate that between 1.75 and 4 million Americans age 60 and older identify as LGBT. Research suggests that many older LGBT adults face discrimination based on their sexual orientation as well as their age. 

Recognizing the unique needs and concerns of this community, AoA has provided funding to create the country’s first national technical assistance resource center focused on the health and social disparities faced by older LGBT persons. The center will:

  • Educate mainstream aging services organizations about the existence and special needs of LGBT elders
  • Sensitize LGBT organizations to the existence and special needs of older adult
  • Educate LGBT individuals about the importance of planning ahead for future long-term care needs

In 2010, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) was funded to create the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging.

SAGE is a nonprofit agency that has been addressing the needs of LGBT elders for more than 30 years. SAGE works with older adults to address and overcome the challenges of discrimination in senior service settings, while also being an essential component in the creation of informal caregiving support, and leading development of new "family" networks. A network of SAGE partners has been created across the country to serve LGBT elders at the local level.

Additional resources include:

HHS LGBT Health Resources 

HHS and its agencies have created a number of products designed to improve the lives of LGBT individuals.

National Health, Aging, and Sexuality/Gender Study

This landmark study is the first federally-funded longitudinal national project designed to better understand the aging, health, and well-being of LGBTQ midlife and older adults and their families.

LGBT Aging Issues Network (LAIN) 

LAIN, a constituent group of the American Society on Aging, works to raise awareness about the concerns of LGBT elders and about the unique barriers they encounter in gaining access to housing, health care, long-term care, and other services. LAIN's website includes an Aging Resources Clearinghouse.

MedlinePlus Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Health Resources

MedlinePlus has a section on their website that provides information about health issues specific to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

Protecting Your Health Care Wishes

Prepared by Lambda Legal, this guide is designed to assist LGBT individuals in protecting their rights in health care settings.

Outing Age 2010: Public Policy Issues Affecting LGBT Elders 

This report provides an in-depth look at public policy issues and challenges facing millions of aging LGBT Americans.

LGBT Older Adults in Long Term Care Facilities: Stories from the Field

This report is the result of a survey seeking to better understand the experiences of LGBT older adults in long-term care settings. The survey also sought to capture personal comments that describe experiences of older adults, their loved ones, and providers.

Last modified on 05/16/2023

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