Health care utilization behavior of elders in a multicultural urban environment

Katherine Marie Condon, Florida International University


The objective of this research is to determine the influences of social, environmental, behavioral, and economic forces on the health care service utilization of four racial/ethnic groups of non-institutionalized elders in a multicultural urban environment. To address these issues this dissertation examines three intertwined themes of culture, aging, and health, using a sample of elders residing in Miami-Dade County, FL in four racial/ethnic groups: white non-Hispanic; black non-Hispanic English speakers; Cuban; and non-Cuban Hispanic. The research questions were analyzed using both quantitative and qualitative data. Data for the quantitative component uses telephone survey data from the Dade County Needs Assessment. The purpose of this component is to develop a more comprehensive model of elder health care utilization behavior. The qualitative component uses data from focus groups from Dade County Needs Assessment, archival data and a literature review of previous ethnographic research. The purpose of this component is to gain a better understanding of the social construction of the terms “age”' and “aging,” as well as to place issues of health and health care in the lives of elders. The findings raised several important issues. First, just because people share a common chronological age does not mean that they are the same in every other respect. Examining elders as a homogeneous group of users of formal health care services in a community is simplistic. Placing “aging” and “health” in a cultural context is important. My findings confirm that the meaning of “aging” and “old” are socially constructed. Further, the term “aging” is NOT synonymous with ill health or frailty. This was a consistent finding in both the quantitative and qualitative results. While all aging individuals share a mutual orientation toward aging (i.e., biological process), they do not age the same way (i.e., social construction of “aging”). Thus, policymakers and others serving the elder population must be aware of the particular cultural context, as well as the previous life experiences of the individuals that they serve. This analysis documents the importance of culture and geographic community in understanding health care service utilization of elders.

Subject Area

Welfare|Public health|Cultural anthropology|Gerontology

Recommended Citation

Condon, Katherine Marie, "Health care utilization behavior of elders in a multicultural urban environment" (2000). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9992733.