Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Work

First Advisor

Leslie Hasche, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jennifer Greenfield

Third Advisor

Nicole N. Nicotera


Diverse elders, Gerontology, Health disparities, Nonprofit, Organizational strategies, Social work


As the United States older adult population expands, it is also becoming more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). This increased diversity necessitates that social workers research issues of cultural competency at the organizational level to ensure that community based organizations are able to meet the unique needs of a heterogeneous population of American elders. This qualitative study utilized a modified grounded theory approach to conduct individual interviews and focus groups with over 25 community based organizations serving diverse elders. This study also included analysis of over 100 agency documents, such as mission statements and annual reports. The primary research question was “what are the strategies that key informants within community based organizations attempting to alleviate disparities use to meet the needs of marginalized older adults?” In alignment with the Life Course Theory (Elder, 1975) and the Social Determinants of Health Framework (Marmot, 2006), this research demonstrates that the accumulated disadvantages often experienced by marginalized elders may also be present at the organizational level. Agencies that serve marginalized elders face more barriers in meeting the reporting requirements of funders, demonstrating the use of evidence based practice, and having enough resources and organizational capacity to successfully provide for the diverse needs of elders. Study participants also identified over thirty concrete organizational strategies that they perceived could lead to better services for diverse elderly clients. In terms of practice implications, this study demonstrates that non-profit, community based agencies serving diverse older adults need to be further supported in their efforts to collaborate, share resources and otherwise increase their organizational capacity. At the policy level, federal programs may need to expand to further promote the networking and collaborative efforts of smaller, community based agencies that may already be culturally aware of the needs of their own communities but lack adequate resources and capacity. Future studies could determine the best methods to implement the organizational strategies identified in this study, identify implementation barriers and supports, and research the specific needs of each unique elder group.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Jennifer L. Martin

File size

189 p.

File format





Social work, Gerontology, Management