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Caring and aging with pride

National study on aging GLBT adults first of its kind

March 2, 2012 Zack Barnes   Comments

The results of the first major study on the aging and health needs of the GLBT community has been released by a group of researchers from around the country. The study, Caring and Aging with Pride, is the first nationally funded research project to look into these issues. Over 2,500 GLBT adults age 50 and above participated in the study led by eleven different community-based agencies.

Caring and Aging with Pride shows that the health issues of the GLBT community are something policy makers, health care agencies, and researchers should be looking at more in-depth. The research found significant aging and health disparities, including higher rates of disability, among the GLBT population than their similar heterosexual counterparts.

“The higher rates of aging and health disparities among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender older adults is a major concern for public health,” said Karen Fredriksen-Goldsen, a professor of social work at the University of Washington and director of the school’s Institute for Multigenerational Health, who led the research project. “The health disparities reflect the historical and social context of their lives, and the serious adversity they have encountered can jeopardize their health and willingness to seek services in old age.”

Throughout the health study, the researchers found an alarming statistic. Almost two-thirds of respondents have been victimized three or more times, including 19% who have experience physical assault. They also found that 26% have served in the military including 41% of transgender older adults, 41% of bisexual men, 34% of gay men, 7% of bisexual women, and 6% of lesbians.

The researchers are trying to use their research to show policy makers that something needs to be done. "GLBT older people make up a significant share of people over age 65 living in this country, and their numbers are expected to double in size to more than 3 million by 2030," said Michael Adams, Executive Director of Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders (SAGE), which partnered with the researchers for this study. "The unique challenges that GLBT elders face, combined with their growing numbers, requires a mandate to ensure that the policies designed to protect our nation's elders take into account the needs of GLBT older people, leading to a healthy and rewarding later life for all older people."

Dr. Fredriksen-Goldsen has already taken the first step to policy reform. Last year on Nov. 9, she presented her research in front of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus in Washington, D.C.

SAGE has paired up with the National Academy on an Aging Society to release the Public Policy & Aging Report (PPAR), which details the research on GLBT aging and what they think are the policy gaps.

"Given the voluminous gerontological literature that has built up over the past half-century, it is hard to imagine that any set of aging populations has been largely ignored or under-investigated. Yet, GLBT older adults have remained nearly invisible to the community of advocates, researchers, practitioners, administrators, and politicians who associate themselves with the modern aging enterprise," said PPAR Editor Robert Hudson, PhD, chair of the Department of Social Policy at the Boston University School of Social Work. "This issue of Public Policy & Aging Report takes a step toward filling that void."

One thing is clear, researchers and policy makers now have the data they need to put the next foot forward to look more into this issue.

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