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PREPARING STUDENTS TO MEET CHALLENGES OF CULTURALLY DIVERSE AGING U.S.A.: INFUSING CROSS CULTURAL AGING CONTENT INTO PHYSICAL THERAPY CURRICULA.

Aliya N. Chaudry*1, Theresa Nemmers1, Robin D. Washington2
1. Schol of Physical Therapy, Langston University; 2. Physical Therapy, Alabama State University

UNIQUE: Physical Therapy practitioners encountering the “senior” patient/client in clinical practice may not recognize that these “seniors” may have unique needs not just because of their advanced age but also because of their increasingly diverse cultural backgrounds. One way to address this dilemma is to ensure that the future generations of physical therapy professionals are equipped to provide age specific culturally competent care to the increasingly diverse aging population. A unique model infuses specific age related culturally diverse course content into all aspects of physical therapy curricula [model will be presented at conference] so as to educate physical therapy students about age specific culturally competent care of the aging population.
PURPOSE: The need to address the progressive aging of the patient/client population for physical therapy services and the need to have a physical therapy work force equipped to effectively address the varied needs of an increasingly diverse aging patient/client population in U.S.A. were the driving forces in investigating how physical therapy educational institutions across U.S.A. could infuse more course content on cross cultural aging into the current curriculum so as prepare students to administer “BEST” practice to culturally diverse aging patients/clients in the future.
FOUNDATION: Traditionally, physical therapy professionals serve individuals across the life span. However, the twenty first century physical therapy professionals will find themselves interacting with an ever increasing number of elderly patients/clients with culturally diverse backgrounds. Declining fertility rates and increasing life expectancy have caused the number of individuals age 60 and over in the U.S.A. to rapidly increase. By year 2050, 1 out of every 5 Americans will be over age 65 and of these almost 1 out of 3 individuals over age 65 will be culturally diverse. Furthermore, among this population, the age group that will grow the fastest nationally & internationally is individuals 85 years of age & older. According to the U.S. Bureau of Census, U.S. population of individuals age 65 and over will increase from 39.4 Million in 2030 to over 61 Million in 2050 and within this group the population of individuals age 85 and over will increase from 12.6 Million in 2030 to over 26 Million in 2050. Also, the U.S. Bureau of Census has predicted that the African American & Hispanic populations age 65 and older will increase significantly from 3.6 Million in 1990 to being over 20 Million in 2050. To be successful and effective as practitioners then, all physical therapy professionals joining the work force must have an increasing level of cross-cultural aging competency. Therefore, physical therapy educational institutions must plan for this time frame and the accompanying changes so as to effectively prepare physical therapy professionals to work with the diverse aging population.
DESCRIPTION: A curricula content model is proposed for all physical therapy curricula to assist in infusing more course content relating to cross-cultural aging into their existing or new courses so as to graduate individuals who are more culturally sensitive to and aware of the needs of the fast growing elderly population. Generally, a physical therapy curriculum can be divided into 5 broad categories such as Basic Sciences, Clinical Sciences, Behavioral Sciences, Research, and Clinical Education. Cross-cultural aging content information that is appropriate for infusion into each of the above broad categories is selectively infused into the corresponding courses taught in each category. Essential topics needed to support the development of such cross-cultural competency in aging include: demographics in aging, biology in aging, sociology in aging, cultural differences, communication differences, mental health of aging, cultural diversity in health and geriatrics, public policy and health, and wellness and health promotion for the aged. A sample of a proposed curriculum for a physical therapy program that includes the essential topics of cross cultural aging content that have been infused into a physical therapy curriculum will be demonstrated in the presentation at the Conference.
OBSERVATIONS: Student assessments at the end of each semester and Clinical Instructor Assessments at the end of each student clinical internship are used to assess student knowledge in cross cultural aging patient/client management issues.
CONCLUSIONS: Significant increases in the future “senior” age composition of the population of the United States is inevitable. Therefore, the present physical therapy educational programs must adapt to meet the needs of the future. Physical Therapy programs must include additional cross-cultural aging content in their curricula as suggested in the proposed model above so as to better prepare their graduates to deliver BEST practice physical therapy care to the culturally diverse aging population. The essential topics listed above provide faculty with a checklist for cross-cultural aging content necessary for infusion into a physical therapy curriculum. The proposed model presented is a generic model for a physical therapy curriculum which may be adapted with some modifications to any physical therapy curriculum in the United States.
FUNDING SOURCE: The information in this presentation is a direct result of a workshop conducted under a federal grant by institutions listed below to educate health care professionals of varied disciplines from 15 different institutions nation-wide on cross-cultural aging content:Utica College,Florida A & M University, Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, and National Association for Equal Opportunity
KEYWORDS: aging, cultural competency, curriculum




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