Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Research Focus on LGBT Seniors

Today people with HIV are living well past their 50s. They are aging alongside other LGBT baby boomers, many of whom have been out of the closet for decades and are demanding services as they enter retirement age.

The result is an increased effort to study LGBT seniors and address their concerns. Both the National Institutes of Health and AARP have funneled research resources toward LGBT adults.

Early last decade, Rainbow Research, an LGBT interest group, emerged within the Gerontological Society of America.  It  also took part in 2006 and 2010 in a Met Life study focused on LGBT seniors.

Researchers first looked at the needs of 1,000 LGBT baby boomers. A follow-up study then compared 1,200 LGBT boomers against 1,200 from the general population.

"It was one of the very few studies that allowed us to compare LGBT people with heterosexuals," a researcher pointed out.

One of the lead authors of the Met Life study, and a co-founder of the Rainbow Research group, was Karen I. Fredriksen-Goldsen, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Washington and director of the Institute for Multigenerational Health.

Fredriksen-Goldsen, 55, an out lesbian, also received funding in 2009 from the NIH and the National Institute on Aging to conduct a national survey on the needs of LGBT seniors. More than 2,500 LGBT adults ranging in age from 50 to 95 took part.
Why wasn't funding earlier in coming? Fredriksen-Goldsen explains, "A lot of it has been just very rampant invisibility colliding with the stereotype that LGBT people aren't seniors."

Her latest project is to study the specific needs of LGBT seniors in San Francisco. Her first task was to study the responses from 295 San Francisco residents who took part in the federally funded Caring and Aging with Pride research project. She was in San Francisco recently to present her findings.  A report based on her work can be downloaded from the task force's website at http://www.sf-hrc.org/index.aspx?page=201 .

Most of the respondents, some 85 percent, were white, and 70 percent were male. The majority lived alone, didn't have children, and were renters. More information is needed on LGBT seniors of color and transgender people, said Fredriksen-Goldsen.   The task force plans to put particular focus on reaching LGBT adults in those communities when it launches the online survey, which will be in English, Spanish, and Chinese, in late February. It plans to prepare a final analysis by July.

"I haven't had an opportunity before to work as closely and go into the kind of depth as we are going to go in San Francisco," said Fredriksen-Goldsen. "We really want to understand what is happening within very specific communities among LGBT adults.
For more specific information, check out the link above for greater details.  And, please comment.
Susanne Paul
Global Action on Aging





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