Planning for the social, community and house needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer older adults
Ranahan, Molly Elizabeth
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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) older adults make up a substantial and increasing segment of both the total population of LGBTQ people and overall population of adult Americans aged 65+. However, LGBTQ elders remain largely invisible within both of these groups. This is problematic because this population of LGBTQ elders face a variety of obstacles and disparities—historical and current social stigma and prejudice, reliance on families of choice for social connections and unequal treatment under laws, programs and services—that are unique to their demographic and can make it more difficult for them to age in a healthy, successful manner. These obstacles have influenced the prevalence of social isolation, found to be higher among LGBTQ elders than in the broader population of older adults. To improve successful aging for this population, it is critical to support LGBTQ older adults in overcoming social isolation. Agencies and service providers who work with this population have begun to develop community-based initiatives and housing solutions to help mitigate the barriers and prejudices faced by LGBTQ elders and ultimately reduce the occurrence of social isolation. Furthermore, these initiatives and housing solutions are being developed and implemented on a local level. To date, however, there have been no comprehensive examination of these initiatives and/or exploration of their impetuses, practices or impacts. How do existing community-based initiatives address the prevalence of social isolation and other aging related challenges faced by LGBTQ older adults? The current absence of project guidelines and/or practice standards for community-based initiatives serving LGBTQ elders suggested the need for an exploratory research approach to examine this situation. This study utilized a comprehensive literature review of existing LGBTQ aging literature and semi-structured phone interviews with individuals from a sample of community-based initiatives and residential projects that serve LGBTQ elders. The primary purpose of the study was to examine how community-based initiatives address the prevalence of social isolation and other aging related challenges of the LGBTQ elders that they serve. The study findings provide: • a description of the distinct needs and unique challenges of a sample of the current cohort of LGBTQ elders; • a snapshot of a spectrum of existing community-based initiatives; • a discussion of program models, impacts on participants and residents and ongoing challenges faced LGBTQ elders. The final goals of the study are to better understand the strategies and impacts of existing interventions that address the social, community and housing challenges faced by LGBTQ older adults, and to identify opportunities for involvement of the planning field in these initiatives.