Acculturation can be defined as a continuum. At one end the retention of values and beliefs from one’s own culture of origin is maintained. Moving towards the center of the continuum, one can become bilingual and bicultural easily shifting from traditional practices to adopting practices of the mainstream society. At the end of the continuum, individuals may fully adopt the values and beliefs of the mainstream society thus no longer identifying with their original culture (Valle, 1989).

Acculturation Continnum

There are several dimensions of acculturation which include use of language, country of origin, length of residence, contact with country of origin, parental expectations, food preferences. Familiarity with the acculturation continuum and dimensions within the continuum may help to facilitate and enhance the communication with elderly Hispanic/Latino patients.

Previous studies have shown that higher levels of acculturation at various dimensions increase the likelihood for access to certain screenings or healthcare. For example, in a study of breast screening of Columbian, Ecuadorian, Dominican, and Puerto Rican women ages 18-74, those who were more acculturated had more recently received a breast screening and mammogram than those who were less acculturated (O’Malley, Kerner, Johnson, & Mandelblatt, 1992).

Another study examined health practices among a predominantly Mexican American elder population and found that women who were highly acculturated tended to be current smokers and heavy drinkers compared to the less acculturated (Cantero, Richardson, Baezconde-Garbanati, & Marks, 1999). Another interesting finding of this same study was that as acculturation increased, subjects were more likely to participate in regular exercise.